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News Wrap: Flight 370 search follows promising pings

April 7, 2014 at 6:02 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Hopes of finding that missing Malaysian airliner were cautiously on the rise today. That followed a flurry of reports that searchers may have picked up signals from the plane’s black boxes.

Lucy Watson of Independent Television News reports from Beijing, where the search is being closely watched because most of those on board were Chinese.

LUCY WATSON: An Australian crew lower the key American device that could end the uncertainty surrounding Flight 370. It’s been trawling the ocean for underwater sounds like those emitted from flight data recorders, and on board, they may have detected, but not located them.

ANGUS HOUSTON, Chief Search Coordinator: Clearly, this is a most promising lead. And probably in the search so far, it’s the — it’s probably the best information that we have had. We haven’t found the aircraft yet. We need further confirmation.

LUCY WATSON: The latest signals, or pings, were heard here by an Australian vessel 370 miles from where a Chinese ship picked up brief sounds on Saturday. The Ocean Shield has been circling the area, towing a pinger locator. And detections were heard on two separate occasions, the first time for two hours and 20 minutes, and later another received for around 13 minutes.

If the ship picks up more pings, an underwater drone will then be sent to investigate the seabed some three miles down. And deep beneath that surface, it is hostile, with mountainous terrain, so any recovery will be testing. But, like every other lead over the last month, it’s met with expectant attention.

DATUK SERI HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, Transport Minister, Malaysia: Despite all this, we are cautiously hopeful that there will be a positive development in the next few days, if not hours.

CAPT. MARK MATTHEWS, U.S. Navy: We’d like to tell the families that we have found the location, but until we can reconfirm, you know, we shouldn’t be too optimistic. We should be very measured, because the worst thing we want to do is put the families through the emotional — emotional turmoil of possible, but maybe false detections.

LUCY WATSON: So they are treading carefully. But whether it’s through effort, skill, or sheer good fortune, they could soon unravel this mystery.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The death toll in the Washington State mudslide rose again today to 33. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed three more victims, including a 30-year-old naval officer. The number of missing dropped to 10.

In Rwanda, wails of grief punctuated a ceremony marking the genocide that ravaged that African nation 20 years ago. It’s estimated more than a million people died, as ethnic Hutus slaughtered minority Tutsis. Some in the crowd today were so overcome, they had to be carried out. Rwandan President Paul Kagame told the crowd that colonial rule set the stage for the violence.

PRESIDENT PAUL KAGAME, Rwanda: The people who planned and carried out the genocide were Rwandans, but the history and root causes go beyond this beautiful country. This is why Rwandans continue to seek the most complete explanation possible.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Kagame has accused France of directly taking part in the killing. Paris was allied with the Rwandan government that ruled before the genocide, but it denies training Hutu militias to carry out the attacks.

The first days of the world’s largest democratic election has begun in India. Lines were long, but orderly, with turnout today estimated at 74 percent. In all, 814 million Indians are eligible to vote over the next five weeks for the lower house of parliament. The opposition Hindu Nationalist Party is expected to win big on a promise to rejuvenate the economy, but it may still fall short of a majority.

The double-amputee Olympian Oscar Pistorius took the stand in his murder trial in South Africa today. He’s accused of murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, but he says he thought she was an intruder. Before taking the stand, Pistorius wept and covered his ears as he listened to forensic evidence. Then, out of view of the cameras, he apologized to the Steenkamp family.

OSCAR PISTORIUS: I wake up every morning, and you’re the first people I think of, the first people I pray for. I can’t imagine the pain and the sorrow and the emptiness that I have caused you and your family. I was simply trying to protect Reeva. I can promise you that, when she went to bed that night, she felt loved.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, the judge adjourned the proceedings, saying Pistorius looked exhausted. He returns to the stand tomorrow.

The U.S. Senate moved this evening to approve a bill that restores jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. It would cost $9.6 billion and be paid for by offsetting spending cuts elsewhere. The bill is given little chance of passing the House, but supporters said they’re willing to consider changes. As many as 2.7 million people have lost jobless benefits since December.

Ford is the latest automaker to announce a major recall campaign. The company said today it’s calling back nearly 435,000 vehicles. Most are Ford Escapes from the model years 2001 through 2004. They could develop rust that interferes with the steering.

Wall Street had another losing day, as financial firms and tech stocks slumped. The Dow Jones industrial average fell nearly 167 points to close below 16,246. The Nasdaq was down almost 48 points to close at 4,079. And the S&P 500 gave up 20 to finish at 1,845.