SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian officials said on Wednesday that two new “ping” signals had been detected in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, injecting fresh confidence into the search that had been struggling with a lack of information.
Angus Houston, head of the Australian agency coordinating the search, said one ping was detected on Tuesday afternoon and lasted five minutes, 25 seconds, while a second was picked up on Tuesday night and lasted seven minutes.
“I believe we are searching in the right area but we need to visually identify aircraft wreckage before we can confirm with certainty that this is the final resting place of MH370,” Houston told reporters in Perth.
On the weekend, a U.S. Navy “towed pinger locator” picked up two signals consistent with black box locator beacons - the first for more than two hours and the second for about 13 minutes.
The black boxes record cockpit data and may provide answers about what happened to the plane, which was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew when it vanished on March 8 and flew thousands of kilometers off its Kuala Lumpur-to-Beijing route.
But the batteries in the beacons have already reached the end of their 30-day expected life, making efforts to swiftly locate them all the more critical.
Authorities say evidence suggests the plane was deliberately diverted by someone familiar with the aircraft, but have not ruled out mechanical problems.
Analysis of satellite data led investigators to conclude the Boeing 777 came down in a remote area of the Indian Ocean near Perth. The search is now centered on an area approximately 2,261 kilometers (1,405 miles) northwest of that city.
Houston said that the new signals may allow officials to narrow down the search area to the point where an autonomous underwater vehicle named Bluefin-21, which is onboard the Ocean Shield, could be sent to look for wreckage on the sea floor.
“Now hopefully with lots of transmissions we’ll have a tight, small area and hopefully in a matter of days we will be able to find something on the bottom,” he said.
Reporting by Matt Siegel; Editing by Michael Perry