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MORE PINGS RAISE HOPES PLANE WILL BE FOUND SOON

Wednesday, 09 April 2014 09:27 Published in National News

PERTH, Australia (AP) -- The frustrating monthlong search for the Malaysian jetliner received a tremendous boost when a navy ship detected two more signals that most likely emanated from the aircraft's black boxes. The Australian official coordinating the search expressed hope Wednesday that the wreckage will soon be found.

Angus Houston, head of a joint agency coordinating the search for the missing plane in the southern Indian Ocean, said that the Australian naval vessel Ocean Shield picked up the two signals on Tuesday, and that an analysis of two sounds detected in the same area on Saturday showed they were consistent with a plane's black boxes.

"I'm now optimistic that we will find the aircraft, or what is left of the aircraft, in the not-too-distant future. But we haven't found it yet, because this is a very challenging business," Houston said at a news conference in Perth, the hub for the search operation.

The signals detected 1,645 kilometers (1,020 miles) northwest of Perth are the strongest indication yet that the plane crashed and is now lying at the bottom of the ocean in the area where the search is now focused. Still, Houston warned he could not yet conclude that searchers had pinpointed Flight 370's crash site.

"I think that we're looking in the right area, but I'm not prepared to say, to confirm, anything until such time as somebody lays eyes on the wreckage," he said.

Finding the black boxes quickly is a matter of urgency because their locator beacons have a battery life of only about a month, and Tuesday marked exactly one month since the plane vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board.

If the beacons blink off before the black boxes' location can be determined, finding them in such deep water - about 4,500 meters, or 15,000 feet - would be an immensely difficult, if not impossible, task.

The Ocean Shield first detected underwater sounds on Saturday before losing them, but managed to pick them up again on Tuesday, Houston said. The ship is equipped with a U.S. Navy towed pinger locator that is designed to detect signals from a plane's two black boxes - the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.

A data analysis of the signals heard Saturday determined they were distinct, man-made and pulsed consistently, Houston said, indicating they were coming from a plane's black box.

"They believe the signals to be consistent with the specification and description of a flight data recorder," he said.

To assist the Ocean Shield, the Australian navy on Wednesday began using parachutes to drop a series of buoys in a pattern near where the signals were last heard.

Royal Australian Navy Commodore Peter Leavy said each buoy will dangle an underwater listening device called a hydrophone about 300 meters (1,000 feet) below the surface. The hope, he said, is the buoys will help better pinpoint the location of the signals.

Houston acknowledged searchers were running out of time, and noted that the signals picked up on Tuesday were weaker and briefer than the ones heard over the weekend, suggesting that the batteries might be dying. The two signals detected on Saturday lasted two hours and 20 minutes and 13 minutes, respectively; the sounds heard Tuesday lasted just 5 and a half minutes and 7 minutes.

"So we need to, as we say in Australia, `make hay while the sun shines,'" Houston said.

Picking up the sound again is crucial to narrowing the search area so a small, unmanned submarine can be deployed to create a sonar map of a potential debris field on the seafloor. The sub, dubbed Bluefin 21, takes six times longer to cover the same area as the pinger locator, which is pulled behind the boat at a depth of 3,000 meters.

U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Matthews said the detections indicate the device emitting the pings is somewhere within about a 20-kilometer (12-mile) radius. Still, he said, that equates to a 1,300-square-kilometer (500-square-mile) chunk of the ocean floor.

That amounts to trying to find a desktop computer in a city the size of Los Angeles, and would take the sub about six weeks to two months to canvass. So it makes more sense to continue using the towed pinger locator to zero in on a more precise location, Matthews said.

"It's certainly a man-made device emitting that signal," he said. "And I have no explanation for what other component could be there."

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on a trip from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing has sparked one of aviation's biggest mysteries. The search has shifted from waters off of Vietnam, to the Strait of Malacca and then to waters in the southern Indian Ocean as data from radar and satellites was further analyzed.

The weakening of the signals could indicate that the batteries were reaching the end of their life, or that the device was farther away, Matthews said. Temperature, water pressure or the saltiness of the sea could also be factors.

Houston said a decision had not yet been made on how long searchers would wait after the final sound was heard before the sub was deployed, saying only that time was "not far away."

"Hopefully in a matter of days, we will be able to find something on the bottom that might confirm that this is the last resting place of MH370," he said.

The Bluefin sub's sonar can scan only about 100 meters and it can "see" with lights and cameras only a few meters. The maximum depth it can dive is 4,500 meters, and some areas of the search zone are deeper.

Search crews are also contending with a thick layer of silt on the seafloor that can both hide any possible wreckage and distort the sounds emanating from the black boxes that may be resting there, said Leavy, who is helping to lead the search.

Meanwhile, the search for debris on the ocean surface picked up intensity on Wednesday, with 15 planes and 14 ships scouring a 75,400 square kilometer area that extends from 2,250 kilometers northwest of Perth.

Despite the challenges still facing search crews, those involved in the hunt were buoyed by the Ocean Shield's findings.

"I'm an engineer so I don't talk emotions too much," Matthews said. "But certainly when I received word that they had another detection, you feel elated. You're hopeful that you can locate the final resting place of the aircraft and bring closure to all the families involved."

--

Gelineau reported from Sydney. Associated Press Writer Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.

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Cardinals rally past Reds 7-5

Tuesday, 08 April 2014 23:28 Published in Sports
 
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Matt Holliday hit a go-ahead two-run double in the sixth inning that glanced off right fielder Jay Bruce's glove on the warning track and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Reds 7-5 on Tuesday night.
 
Yadier Molina homered and Peter Bourjos had three hits and an RBI to help the Cardinals clinch their 26th series win to go with three losses and two splits since 2003 against Cincinnati.
 
Bruce had a two-run triple in the first, Billy Hamilton's second hit of the season drove in a run and Ryan Ludwick had two RBIs for the Reds.
 
The Reds squandered a 4-0 second-inning lead by the bottom half of the inning, and Lance Lynn (2-0) got enough support to beat Cincinnati for the second straight time.
 
The Cardinals averaged 5.67 runs in Lynn's starts last year, third-most in the National League, and have scored seven both outings this year.
 
Trevor Rosenthal finished for his third save in three chances.
 
Bruce appeared to have a bead on Holliday's two-out drive with two on against Logan Ondrusek (0-1), but had to jump a bit at the last instant and the ball glanced off his glove as the Cardinals took a 6-5 lead. Bourjos added an RBI single in the seventh off J.J. Hoover.
 
Both starters scuffled, just as they did in the second game of the season in Cincinnati. Lynn has surrendered eight runs in 11 innings and Homer Bailey has permitted eight runs on 16 hits and five walks in 9 1-3 innings.
 
Lynn is 5-1 for his career against the Reds, including three wins last year. Bailey is 5-11 against the Cardinals.
 
Joey Votto and Bruce had one-out hits in the fifth ahead of Ludwick's run-scoring groundout for a 5-4 lead.
 
Cardinals leadoff man Matt Carpenter had two hits, an RBI and was hit by a pitch against Bailey. He's 13 for 22 against the right-hander.
 
Notes: It was 61 degrees for the first pitch, a 12-degree improvement over the home opener Monday. ... The Cardinals received World Series rings in a pre-game ceremony. "I'm going to be wearing this one," manager Mike Matheny said. "My fingers have been busted up pretty bad, so they don't hold rings real well. But I'm going to make sure this one stays with me for a while." ... Shelby Miller (0-1, 8.44) opposes Mike Leake (0-1, 5.40) in the series finale Wednesday afternoon. Miller gave up three solo homers in his first start at Pittsburgh. Leake makes his ninth start against the Cardinals but just his second on the road. ... Rehabbing Reds reliever Sean Marshall (shoulder) is scheduled to throw an inning at extended spring training Wednesday.

Ovechkin gets 50th goal, Capitals top Blues 4-1

Tuesday, 08 April 2014 23:27 Published in Sports
 
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Alex Ovechkin took his place in the NHL record book and helped the Washington Capitals keep pace in the playoff race.
 
Ovechkin became the 11th player in NHL history to score 50 more goals in a season five times and added two assists as the Capitals beat the slumping St. Louis Blues 4-1 on Tuesday night. The two points gave the Capitals 85, four behind Columbus for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
 
Both the Blue Jackets and Capitals have three games left.
 
"We talked this morning about all we can do is control our situation," Washington coach Adam Oates said. "Try and focus on tonight, get a win and see what happens tomorrow."
 
The Blues clinched a playoff spot in the Western Conference a while ago, but their hopes of a President's Trophy are fading.
 
Maxim Lapierre had the only goal for St. Louis, which has lost a season-high three straight. The Blues have been outscored 12-3 during the losing streak. St. Louis has scored two or fewer goals in nine of its last 11 games.
 
"I thought the first period we were really good," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. "When we got down 3-1, we just seemed to lose our energy."
 
Hitchcock said the Blues' scoring problems are more than just the top lines not delivering.
 
"I think it's across the board," Hitchcock said. "When you're not scoring, you need to shoot, but it's more the execution after we got down."
 
Nicklas Backstrom scored twice and Mikhail Grabovski added another goal for the Capitals. Braden Holtby made 28 saves after he started over Jaroslav Halak, who played 40 games and recorded 24 wins for the Blues this season. Holtby also beat the Blues 4-1 on Nov. 17.
 
"We got fortunate in some places, a broken stick on a wide-open shot and a few others where they just missed, but I think that was a credit to us pressuring them on those scoring chances," Holtby said. "It's a game of those little things and tonight we did that."
 
Holtby said the Capitals have done what they had to do the last few games.
 
"I think we've done a pretty good job of staying calm and just playing our game the last couple," Holtby said. "It's hard, it's a tough thing, but we can only control what we can control now."
 
Ovechkin, who added an assist, beat Ryan Miller with a one-timer from the left circle at 17:54 of the first period for his 50th goal overall and 23rd on the power play, both league highs.
 
It is Ovechkin's first 50-goal campaign since 2009-10 when he scored 50. His single-season high is 65 in the 2007-08 season.
 
"It means a lot," Ovechkin said. "That's a big number, and it's going to be there my whole life."
 
After Lapierre tied the game at 2:39 of the second period, Grabovski gave the Capitals the lead for good when he beat Miller with a slap shot from the left circle at 8:52 of the period.
 
Ovechkin then gave Washington some insurance when he broke in down the right wing and fed Backstrom in the slot. Backstrom put it past Miller with 1:10 left in the second period to make it 3-1.
 
"It was a great feed again," Backstrom said. "That was a seam pass there and that defenseman gave me a little room, so you have to take advantage of that."
 
Washington began the third period on a power play and Backstrom put the game out of reach when he scored 16 seconds into the period.
 
NOTES: Ovechkin is tied with Pavel Bure, Phil Esposito, Bobby Hull, Brett Hull and Steve Yzerman with five seasons of 50 or more goals. Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky accomplished that nine times, and Marcel Dionne, Guy Lafleur and Mario Lemieux had six such seasons. ... Alexander Steen returned to the Blues' lineup after missing the last three games. ... Tuesday marked the first time the Capitals have been in St. Louis since Dec. 1, 2010, when they also beat the Blues 4-1.

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