Missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370: Malaysia says next positive announcement could be 'hours' away in ocean search for plane

'Pings' have been picked up in the ocean at the same frequency as the aircraft's black box recorders

Malaysia's Defence Minister is "cautiously hopeful" that teams searching for missing flight MH370 will be able to make a positive announcement in the next few days, "if not hours".

Hishamuddin Hussein have a statement to reporters at a press conference on Monday in light of underwater 'pings' that were detected by ships searching the southern Indian Ocean.

His comments came after the head of the Australian agency co-ordinating the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 said the team is “very close” to locating the area where the aircraft fell, after a US Navy ‘ping’ locator towed by an Australian ship detected signals consistent with the beacons emitted from aircraft black box recorders.

Read more: Key questions answered in search for missing plane
Opposition leader says government is concealing information
Last words from cockpit were not 'all right, good night'

But authorities have warned it will take time to confirm whether the sounds are signals from the flight data recorders that belonged to the missing aircraft.

Angus Houston, a former Australian defence chief and head of the Australian search, told a news conference in Perth on Monday that this was the most promising lead yet in the month-long hunt for the aeroplane.

Australia’s Ocean Shield picked up the signals in an area 1,680km (1,040 miles) northwest of Perth, which analysis of sporadic satellite data has showed is the most likely place Boeing 777 went down.

Houston told reporters that he is “much more optimistic than I was a week ago.”

The first “ping” signal detection was held for more than two hours before the Ocean Shield lost contact, but the ship was able to pick up a signal aground 13 minutes, Houston said.

“We are encouraged that we are very close to where we need to be,” he said according to the Telegraph.

“On this occasion two distinct pinger returns were audible. Significantly, this would be consistent with transmissions from both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder,” he said.

“In the search so far it is probably the best information we have had. We are trying to fix the position on the basis of the transmissions.

“We are now in a very well defined search area, which hopefully will eventually yield the information that we need to say that MH370 might have entered the water just here.”

Despite his positivity, Mr Houston cautioned that the wreckage was still lost.

"I would want more information before we say ’this is it’.

“We are right on the edge of capability and we might be limited on capability if the aircraft ended up in deeper water. In very deep oceanic water, nothing happens fast,” said Houston.

“This is not the end of the search. We still have got difficult, painstaking work to do to confirm that this is indeed where the aircraft entered the water.”

He added that if the signals can be narrowed further, Bluefin 21, an autonomous underwater vehicle, can be used to try to locate wreckage on the sea floor and confirm whether the signals are from the aircraft’s flight recorders.

The potential search area was 4.5 km (2.8 miles) deep, the same as the Bluefin range.

As the recorders' batteries only last for 30 days, crews are working against the clock before the pings begin to fade, at which point the search will become more complicated.

Angus Houston, the head of a joint agency co-ordinating the search in the southern Indian Ocean, called it Angus Houston, the head of a joint agency co-ordinating the search in the southern Indian Ocean, called it "very encouraging".

A second search area was being maintained in waters where a Chinese vessel had also picked up “ping” signals at the weekend in an area more than 300 nautical miles from the latest signals.

Chinese patrol ship Haixun 01 reported receiving a pulse signal with a frequency of 37.5 kHz, consistent with the signal emitted by flight recorders, on Friday and again on Saturday.

Houston said the Chinese and Australian discoveries of pings were consistent with work done on analysing radar and satellite data but the Ocean Shield's leads were now the most promising.

Houston on Sunday said he was comfortable with the level of cooperation between search countries, following criticisms that Australia only became aware of the Chinese find at the same time as the Xinhua state news agency filed a story from a reporter on board the Haixun.

“I'm very satisfied with the consultation, the coordination that we are building with our Chinese friends,” Houston said.

Search crews hope that data stored in the black boxes will answer what happened to the Malaysia Airlines plane and its 227 passengers and 12 crew when it vanished off radar on 8 March, and flew thousands of kilometres off its Kuala Lumpur-to-Beijing route.

Authorities have not ruled out mechanical problems as a cause of the plane's disappearance but the loss of communications suggest it was deliberately diverted.

Additional reporting by Reuters and AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory