“Yesterday one of our civilian search aircraft got visuals on a number of objects in a fairly small area in the overall Australian search zone,” Abbott said on Sunday morning.“A number of small objects, fairly close together within the Australian search zone, including a wooden pallet.”
Abbott added that some of the objects would need to be recovered before anything specific could be determined.
“It’s still too early to be definite [that objects came from an aircraft] but definitely we have now had a number of very credible leads and there is increasing hope — no more than hope — that we might be on the road to discovering what did happen to this ill-fated aircraft,” he said.
Two Chinese search planes and two Japanese Orion aircraft have been deployed to join the search efforts.
The new developments come after Chinese satellites discovered a new object in the waters of the southern Indian Ocean that may be wreckage from flight MH370. The Malaysia Airlines jetliner went missing with 239 people aboard on March 8.
China’s finding was first announced by Malaysia’s defense minister and acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who was handed a note with details during a press conference in the country’s capital of Kuala Lumpur.
The discovered object is around 22 meters long and 13 meters wide, the Chinese State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) said on its website.
It was spotted on March 18 in a remote area off the western Australian coast by China’s high-definition earth observation satellite, Gaofen-1, SASTIND said.
Flight MH370 left Kuala Lumpur on March 8 destined for Beijing, but mysteriously disappeared from radar screens around an hour after takeoff.
For the last two weeks, over 20 countries have attempted to establish what happened to the Boeing 777, but their efforts have so far proved fruitless.
In recent days, the international search switched to the southern Indian Ocean, far off Australia’s western coast, after floating objects were photographed by satellites. Australian PM Tony Abbott described the search area as “the most inaccessible spot that you can imagine on the face of the Earth.”
Six planes and two ships are currently taking part in the operation.