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Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370: Hunt for blackbox with ping locators begins

Underwater search for missing flight MH370 is to begin using pinger locators on UK and Australian ships.

Two naval vessels are using towed pinger locators and acoustic gear across swath of the southern Indian Ocean in an attempt to locate the flight data recorder, said Angus Houston, the head of the Australian agency coordinating search operations.

The data recorders emit a ping that can be detected by special equipment in the immediate vicinity.

But the battery-powered devices stop transmitting the pings about 30 days after a crash. Locating the data recorders and wreckage after that is possible, but becomes an even more daunting task. The batteries in both recorders are likely to fail within days.

Yesterday, the British navy's HMS Echo reported one alert as it searched for sonic transmissions from the missing plane's flight data recorder, but it was quickly discounted as a false alarm, the search co-ordination centre said.

False alerts can come from animals such as whales, or interference from shipping noise.

The Ocean Shield, an Australian warship carrying a US device that detects "pings" from the plane's flight recorders, was expected to arrive by tomorrow.

No confirmed trace of the plane's wreckage has been found. Spotting wreckage is key to narrowing the search area and ultimately finding the plane's data recorders, which would provide a wealth of information about the condition the plane was flying under and the communications or sounds in the cockpit.

Meanwhile more planes joined the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 today, heading out to a remote part of the Indian Ocean.

They resumed the hunt the day after leaders of the two countries heading multinational efforts to find the missing jetliner vowed that no effort would be spared to give closure to the families of those on board.

More resources were committed to the search today, with 14 planes and nine ships planning to scour an 84,000 square mile expanse about 1,100 miles north-west of Perth, the Joint Agency Co-ordination Centre said.

Ten planes were involved in yesterday's search.

Yesterday, Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak flew to Australia for briefings on the search for the Boeing 777 and to meet his Australian counterpart, Tony Abbott, whose country is overseeing the hunt.

"It is a very difficult search - the most difficult in human history. But as far as Australia is concerned, we are throwing everything we have at it," Mr Abbott said.

No trace of the jetliner has been found nearly four weeks after it vanished in the early hours of March 8 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

The co-ordination centre overseeing the search described weather in the search area today as fair, with visibility about six miles and cloud above the optimum search altitude of 1,000 feet.

Mr Najib's government has been harshly criticised by some victims' families for giving sometimes conflicting information about the flight and for the slow pace of the investigation.

He said everyone involved in the search is thinking of the families of victims who are waiting desperately for news.

"I know that until we find the plane, many families cannot start to grieve," he said.

"I cannot imagine what they are going through. But I can promise them that we will not give up.

"We want to provide comfort to the families and we will not rest until answers are indeed found. In due time, we will provide a closure for this event."

Earlier this week, officials warned the investigation may never fully answer why the airliner disappeared.

A lack of information has plagued investigators from the moment the plane's transponders, which make the plane visible to commercial radar, were shut off.

Military radar picked up the jet just under an hour later, way off course on the other side of the Malay Peninsula.

The authorities say that until then, its "movements were consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane," but have not ruled out anything, including mechanical error.

Police are investigating the pilots and crew for any evidence suggesting they may have hijacked or sabotaged the plane.

The backgrounds of the passengers have been checked by investigators and nothing suspicious has been found.

Yesterday, the British navy's HMS Echo reported one alert as it searched for sonic transmissions from the missing plane's flight data recorder, but it was quickly discounted as a false alarm, the search co-ordination centre said.

False alerts can come from animals such as whales, or interference from shipping noise.

The Ocean Shield, an Australian warship carrying a US device that detects "pings" from the plane's flight recorders, was expected to arrive by tomorrow.

No confirmed trace of the plane's wreckage has been found. Spotting wreckage is key to narrowing the search area and ultimately finding the plane's data recorders, which would provide a wealth of information about the condition the plane was flying under and the communications or sounds in the cockpit.

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