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Australian officials said on Wednesday two new "ping" signals had been detected in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, boosting confidence after more than a month of fruitless searching for the missing jetliner.
The signals, which could be from the plane's black box recorders, bring to four the number of overall "pings" detected in recent days within the search area by a U.S. Navy "Towed Pinger Locator"(TPL).
Angus Houston, head of the Australian agency coordinating the search, struck an optimistic tone when announcing the information, but urged caution as the task of searching the remote Indian Ocean region remained enormous.
"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 the western Australian city of Perth.
"I'm now optimistic that we will find the aircraft, or what is left of the aircraft, in the not too distant future."
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 kilometres 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, some 2,261 km (1,405 miles) northwest of Perth.
FRESH PINGS BUT IN A LARGE AREA
Up to 11 military aircraft, four civilian aircraft and 14 ships were involved on with a massive search that has yielded frustratingly little concrete information.
On the weekend, the sophisticated U.S. Navy TPL picked up what officials said were two signals consistent with black box locator beacons - the first for more than two hours and the second for about 13 minutes.
On Wednesday, Houston said that another 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. That brings to four the number of