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Jet search intensifies despite no new pings

– With no new underwater signals detected, the search for the missing Malaysian passenger jet resumed Saturday in a race against time to find its dying black boxes five weeks after families first learned their loved ones never arrived at their destination.

The ocean search area has been condensed as ships and planes hunted for any clue that could help find Flight 370, which disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing with 239 people on board.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Chinese President Xi Jinping that he was confident signals heard by an Australian ship towing a U.S. Navy device that detects flight recorder pings are coming from the Boeing 777. Officials believe the plane flew off course and went down in the southern Indian Ocean.

“We’re getting into the stage where the signal from what we are very confident is the black box is starting to fade,” Abbott told reporters Friday.

Search crews are running out of time because the batteries powering the recorders’ locator beacons last only about a month, and that window has already passed. Finding the devices after the batteries fail will be extremely difficult because the water in the area is 15,000 feet deep.

Two sounds heard a week ago by the Australian ship Ocean Shield, towing the ping locator, were determined to be consistent with signals emitted from black boxes. Two more pings were detected in the same general area Tuesday.

“We are confident that we know the position of the black box flight recorder to within some kilometers,” Abbott said. “But confidence in the approximate position of the black box is not the same as recovering wreckage from almost 4 1/2 kilometers beneath the sea or finally determining all that happened on that flight.”

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