Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Chinese plane spots object in Indian Ocean, China says

BEIJING - An Australian aircraft searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has spotted two objects that could be retrieved by a naval vessel in the coming hours, authorities said Monday.

One object is "a grey or green circular object," and the other is "an orange rectangular object," the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.

They are separate from "suspicious objects" reported earlier Monday by a Chinese military plane that was involved in search efforts in the same region, authorities said.

The reports from the search teams combing an isolated area of the southern Indian Ocean have once again raised hopes of meaningful progress in the hunt for the plane.

But none of the sighted objects have so far been firmly linked to Flight 370, which disappeared more than two weeks ago over Southeast Asia with 239 people on board.

"At the moment, there are new leads but nothing conclusive," Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia's acting transportation minister, said at a news briefing Monday.

A reporter on board the Chinese plane for China's official Xinhua news agency said the search team saw "two relatively big floating objects with many white smaller ones scattered within a radius of several kilometers," the agency reported Monday.

The Chinese plane was flying at 33,000 feet on its way back to Australia's west coast when it made the sighting, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.

But a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft, one of the military's most sophisticated reconnaissance planes, that was tasked to investigate the objects was unable to find them, the authority said.

With the search in its third week, authorities have so far been unable to establish where exactly the missing plane is or why it flew off course from its planned journey from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

China has a particularly large stake in the search: Its citizens made up about two-thirds of the 227 passengers on the missing Boeing 777. Beijing has repeatedly called on Malaysian authorities, who are in charge of the overall search, to step up efforts to find the plane.

Malaysian and Australian authorities appeared to be more interested Monday in the two objects spotted by a Royal Australian Air Force P-3 Orion aircraft.

The Australian's navy's HMAS Success "is on scene and is attempting to locate the objects," the Australian maritime authority said.

Hishammuddin said Australian authorities had said the objects could be retrieved "within the next few hours, or by tomorrow morning at the latest."

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