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Search focuses on black boxes

A US Navy team was flying to Brazil yesterday with high-tech underwater listening devices to help the search for the black boxes from an Air France plane that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.

Brazilian and French military ships, which have so far recovered 16 bodies and large amounts of plane wreckage, resumed their search amid the floating debris.

What caused the Airbus A330 to crash on May 31 with 228 people on board will remain a mystery unless searchers can locate the plane's black box flight data and voice recorders, likely buried deep in the middle of the ocean.

Two US Navy devices that can detect emergency beacons to a depth of 6,100 meters are being flown to Brazil with a Navy team, according to the Pentagon. They will be delivered to ships that will then listen for transmissions from the black boxes, which are programmed to emit signals for at least 30 days.

Sixteen bodies were recovered at the weekend about 70 kilometers from where the jet sent out messages signaling electrical failures and loss of cabin pressure.

Authorities also announced yesterday that searchers spotted two airplane seats and debris with Air France's logo and recovered dozens of structural components from the plane. They had already recovered jet wing fragments and hundreds of personal items believed to be from passengers.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said his nation's military would do all it can to retrieve bodies and return them to relatives.

"We know how significant it is for a family to recover their loved one," da Silva said yesterday on his weekly radio show. He added: "During this painful time it's not going to resolve the problem, but it is an immense comfort to know they can bury their loved ones."

France is leading the investigation into the cause of the crash, while Brazilian officials are focusing on the recovery of victims and wreckage from flight 447, which likely broke up in midair in turbulent weather en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. French military spokesman Christophe Prazuck said the nuclear attack submarine Emeraude would arrive at the scene later this week and "will try to find the acoustic pings emitted by the black box."

The Ventose, a French military frigate, arrived on Sunday and is now under Brazil command, Prazuck said. That ship has found and brought aboard seven of the 17 bodies of victims discovered so far and about 30 pieces of debris that "most probably come from the plane," Prazuck said.

A French navy ship, the Mistral, is headed to the site, he said, and the oceanographic survey ship Pourquoi Pas, equipped with deep-water unmanned subs, is also en route and will try to retrieve the black boxes.


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