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Australia sees long road ahead as hunt for MH370 continues

PERTH, Australia -- There was no let-up in the air and sea search for the missing Malaysian airliner off Australia on Saturday as Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned that locating Flight MH370 would still likely take a long time.

Abbott appeared to step back from his comments Friday when he voiced great confidence that signals from the black box had been detected — his most upbeat assessment so far that triggered speculation that a breakthrough was imminent.

Retired air chief marshal Angus Houston who heads the hunt from Perth, had quickly issued a statement clarifying that there had been no breakthrough.

On Saturday, Abbott repeated his confidence in the search, but put the accent on the challenges ahead.

“We do have a high degree of confidence the transmissions we have been picking up are from flight MH370,” Abbott said on the last day of his visit to China.

But he added, “no one should under-estimate the difficulties of the task ahead of us.

“Yes we have very considerably narrowed down the search area but trying to locate anything 4.5 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.”

The Australian-led search for the Boeing 777, which disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, is racing to gather as many signals as possible to determine an exact resting place before a submersible is sent down to find wreckage.

On Saturday's operations, the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) said: “Australian defense vessel Ocean Shield continues more focused sweeps with the towed pinger locator to try and locate further signals related to the aircraft's black boxes.”

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A Chinese Ilyushin IL-76s aircraft lands at Perth Airport, Australia, after returning from ongoing search operations for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, Saturday, April 12. (AP)

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