A Chinese ship searching for the missing Malaysian Airlines plane has detected signals from a location in the South Indian Ocean, according to reports.
A black box detector deployed by the vessel Haixun 01 picked up the “pings” at around 25 degrees south latitude and 101 degrees east longitude – just north of the designated search area west of Perth.
The signal had a frequency of 37.5 kilohertz (cycles per second) – the standard for black box flight recorders and one that is chosen because it stands out from other noise.
A reporter with Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, who is on-board the Haixun, said the patrol ship first picked up the signal on Friday when it was detected intermittently for about 15 minutes. But other vessels were in the vicinity at the time, raising the possibility that they might have been the source.
But Haixun, China’s largest patrol vessel, picked up the signal again on Saturday, when it was detected every second for 90 seconds.
A black box is designed to emit one pulse every second for approximately 30 days.
The area where Haixun may have detected the black box has water depths of 14,000 feet interspersed with undersea mountain ranges of up to 8,200 feet.
Dozens of ships, planes and submarines resumed the search on Saturday, the 28th day since it disappeared, with just days left to find the black box before its battery runs out.
Up to 10 military planes, three civilian jets and 11 ships took part in the protracted search in the southern Indian Ocean for the Boeing 777 which disappeared on March 8 with 239 people onboard.
The 128-metre Haixun patrol ship arrived on Friday at a new search area, north of a 1 million square mile area earlier designated by Australia.
The ship, which can reportedly travel for 10,000 nautical miles without refuelling, is one of two Chinese vessels currently searching for missing plane off the Australian coast.
Military and civilian planes, ships with deep-sea searching equipment and a British nuclear submarine are scouring a remote patch of the southern Indian Ocean off Australia’s west coast, in the increasingly urgent hunt for debris and the “black box” recorders that hold vital information about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370’s last hours.
Australian Defence Minister David Johnston urged caution, saying he had not received a report on the signal and warned that it may not be from the plane.
“This is not the first time we have had something that has turned out to be very disappointing,” he told ABC television.
“I’m just going to wait for (JACC chief) Angus (Houston) and the team and my team to come forward with something that’s positive because this is a very very difficult task.”
Relatives of the 153 Chinese passengers of Flight MH370 were still digesting the news on Saturday.
Some said it was too early to discuss the possible find. Others said they were already convinced the “ping” had come from the missing plane’s black box even though Chinese authorities have so far insisted that has not been confirmed.
“I just saw the news. Now I feel really sad. Earlier there was still a glimmer of hope,” Chen Zesheng, whose cousin was on the plane, told The Telegraph on Saturday night.
Mr Chen, 63, said he had become “lost and disappointed” with the so far “fruitless” search. Saturday night’s reports appeared at least to represent progress.
“We still want to know what happened. I hope the search and rescue ships, especially those from China, can carry on with their work, finding the debris of the plane as well as the passengers’ belongings [so we have] something to remind us of ours loved-ones.”