A Chinese plane spotted "suspicious objects in the southern Indian Ocean" searching for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and a separate Australian plane also spotted potential debris, said to be "circular" and "rectangular," boosting hopes Monday that clues to the jet's fate may shortly be recovered.
However, rain and poor weather conditions slowed down the search in the area about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth, and while the objects are giving fresh momentum in the hunt for the plane that went missing on March 8 with 239 people aboard, the unidentified objects were being treated as new leads in the case that has baffled investigators for over two weeks rather than concrete evidence.
Malaysia's transport minister said in his daily news conference that both objects sighted by Australia are orange in color and that the sighted objects may be recovered by an Australian ship in as soon as a few hours.
Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the missing jetliner had been carrying wooden pallets in its cargo hold.
And speaking to parliament, Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott said: "I can advise the House that HMS Success is on the scene and is attempting to locate and recover these objects," adding that 'one of the great mysteries of our time" may be closer to being resolved.
The crew of the Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 plane saw the objects in an area that had been identified by satellite imagery as containing possible debris from the missing plane, China's state news agency Xinhua reported. The crew relayed the coordinates of the objects to the Australian command center and to a Chinese ship, the icebreaker Xuelong, which is on its way to the location.
China earlier released a satellite image captured Tuesday depicting an object located about 75 miles south of where an Australian satellite picked up an image of two objects a week ago.
A Xinhua correspondent aboard the IL-76 aircraft said the Chinese crew spotted two large floating objects and several smaller, white objects scattered over several kilometers.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said the search area was expanded from 22,800 to 26,400 square miles, including a new separate area based on data provided by France and made public Sunday. It is not thought that the French debris sightings are near the area where China and Australia have spotted floating objects.
Contributing: Kim Hjelmgaard from London