An Australian plane has spotted an "orange rectangular object" and a "gray or green circular object" while searching for missing Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean, officials said.
Hishamuddin Hussein, Malaysia's acting transport minister, said that Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had told his counterpart in Kuala Lumpur that the objects could be retrieved as soon as later Monday by a ship hunting the Boeing 777.
“A few minutes ago, the prime minister received a call from the prime minister of Australia who informed him that the Australian search aircraft had located two objects in the Australian search area, one circular and one rectangular," Hishamuddin told a media briefing. "HMAS Success is in the vicinity and it is possible that the objects could be received within the next few hours or possibly by tomorrow morning.”
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority confirmed that the crew on board a P-3 Orion aircraft "reported seeing two objects – the first a gray or green circular object and the second an orange rectangular object."
They were spotted around 1,550 miles southwest of Perth, Australia.
Speaking to Australia's Parliament, Abbott said: "We don’t know whether any of these objects are from MH370. They could be flotsam. Nevertheless we are hopeful that we can recover these objects soon and that they will take us a step closer to resolving this tragic mystery."
Oceanographers have been quick to point out that oceans are full of debris so sightings of floating objects may well not be linked to the missing jet.
David Gallo, an expert based at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, highlighted on Monday that dozens of cargo vessels sink each year -- sending thousands of cargo containers overboard.
Earlier, authorities said that a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon searching for the Malaysia Airlines jet could find no trace of the "suspicious objects" in the southern Indian Ocean that a Chinese aircraft reportedly spotted.
AMSA said the objects spotted by the Australian searchers were "separate" to the Chinese sighting.
"We are still racing against time," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a briefing Monday. "As long as there is a glimmer of hope, our search efforts will carry on."
Satellite images and data released by Australia, China and France in recent days have identified possible debris in the area that may be linked to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on March 8 with 239 people on board.
The ocean depth in the search area ranges between 3,770 feet and 23,000 feet, and the U.S. Navy said it was sending a black box locator in case a debris field is located.
Tom Costello and Emma Ong of NBC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published March 24 2014, 2:38 AM