'High Degree of Confidence' Pings Are from Jet, Aussie Leader Says

Image: P-3 Orion from Royal New Zealand Air Force over Indian Ocean
Tim McAlevey of the Royal New Zealand Air Force flies a P-3 Orion over the Indian ocean off western Australia during the search for missing Malaysia Airways Flight 370.Pool / Getty Images

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Australia’s prime minister said Saturday that there is a “high degree of confidence” that acoustic signals picked up in the hunt for wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 are coming from the jet’s black boxes deep in the Indian Ocean.

“There have now been numerous transmissions from what we are confident is the black box,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said during a news conference in Beijing at the end of a China visit.

Still, he said, “no one should underestimate the difficulties of the task still ahead of us.”

“Yes, we have narrowed down very considerably the search area, but trying to locate anything four and a half kilometers beneath the surface of the ocean about 1,000 kilometers from land is a massive, massive task, and it is likely to continue for a long time to come.”

No signals have been heard in more than 24 hours, the agency coordinating the search said early Saturday. An air-disaster expert cautioned Friday that the signals could be coming from old oceanography equipment.

The search zone was narrowed again on Saturday to about 16,000 square miles, down from 22,000 on Thursday and double that the day before.