LATEST: MH370 search leader confirms suspected signals detected by both Australian, Chinese vessels

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Angus Houston

PERTH –– Chief Coordinator of the multinational search team hunting for the missing Malaysian flight MH370 on Sunday confirmed that vessels from both Australia and China had detected suspected pulse signals in recent days, saying more ships and planes are deployed for further verifications and he is satisfied with the current cooperation with China.

Angus Houston, head of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) told a press conference that he was well advised by the Chinese side about the “ping” picked up by the search vessel Haixun 01 in the past two days.

According to media reports, experts onboard the Haixun 01 detected a pulse signal twice with a frequency of 37.5 kHz per second, which is the same as emitted by flight recorders.

Houston told reporters Haixun 01 redetected the signals for 90 seconds Saturday within just 2 km of the original detection following its discovery on Friday.

Regarding a query whether China had informed Australia on Friday when its ship received the signal for the first time, Houston said he was “completely comfortable” with the level of information being provided by the Chinese government and was “very satisfied” with the level of consultation between the two countries.

Meanwhile, he disclosed the Australian ship Ocean Shield which has U.S. underwater search equipment on board also received separate “acoustic event” on Sunday some 300 nautical miles away from the location of Haixun 01.

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Chinese patrol ship Haixun 01 is pictured during a search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in the south Indian Ocean April 5, 2014, in this photo courtesy of China News Service. – Reuters

However, Houston urged caution on both new findings because they have not been verified yet, saying the search team treats every reported lead very seriously and that’s why Australian airforce plane and more ships are directed to assist further investigation.

“The information has been passed through the Chinese authorities to the Australian authorities with a request to do further investigation of the detection, that’s why (British) HMS Echo and Australian vessel Ocean Shield which has special equipment which will be useful in the circumstances are proceeding to the location of Haixun 01,” said Houston.

Echo will arrive in the location in hours and the Ocean Shield would be there in more than 24 hours since it needs to investigate the signal found by itself first, he said.

Houston said the refined satellite data has shifted the search point to the south part of the corridor which is “the most likely area that the aircraft entered the water.”

Haixun 01 is in the southern area and “that’s why we are really interested in the two acoustic encounters that Haixun 01 has had,” he told reporters.

Asked by Xinhua how difficult it would be to retrieve the black box if the signal received by Haixun 01 is confirmed related to MH370, Houston said it would be a very difficult and long process.

“The water in which Haixun 01 is working at the moment is 4,500 meters deep which is incredible, so any recovery operation is going to be very challenging and very demanding and will take a long period of time,” said the chief. “First of all, we have to establish the fact that there’s something down there, we are a long way from making that conclusion,” he added.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott who is currently in Japan said he is “hopeful” but “not certain” about the Chinese detection.

“It’s a very difficult mission and we need to be very careful about jumping to a quick conclusion,” he said.

Australian Defense Minister David Johnston also urged caution over the new findings, saying they could be another false lead.

“I have not had a chance to get to the bottom of this but can I tell you this is not the first time we’ve had something that has turned out to be very disappointing,” he told local ABC 24.

The international search team on Sunday intensified efforts to hunt the MH370 which disappeared on March 8.

According to the JACC, 10 military planes, two civil planes and 13 ships have been deployed for the mission.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has three separate search areas planned for Sunday about 2,000 km northwest of Perth, totaling some 216,000 square km. – Xinhua.

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