SYDNEY/KUALA LUMPUR - Australia has sent aircraft to investigate two objects spotted by satellite floating in the southern Indian Ocean that could be debris from a Malaysian jetliner missing with 239 people on board, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Thursday.
No confirmed wreckage from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has been found since it vanished from air traffic control screens off Malaysia's east coast early on March 8, less than an hour after taking off.
"New and credible information has come to light in relation to the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean," Abbott told the Australian parliament.
"The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has received information based on satellite imagery of objects possibly related to the search."
"Following specialist analysis of this satellite imagery, two possible objects related to the search have been identified," he said.
Abbott said he had already spoken with his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak and cautioned that the objects had yet to be identified.
"The task of locating these objects will be extremely difficult and it may turn out they are not related to the search for MH370," Abbott said.
Investigators believe that someone with detailed knowledge of both the Boeing 777-200ER and commercial aviation navigation switched off the plane's communications systems before diverting it thousands of miles off its scheduled course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Exhaustive background checks of the passengers and crew aboard have not yielded anything that might explain why.
The FBI is helping Malaysian authorities analyse data from a flight simulator belonging to the captain of the missing plane, after initial examination showed some data logs had been deleted early last month.
Abbott said a search aircraft was due to arrive at the area where the objects were spotted at about the time he was speaking in parliament. A further three aircraft were also en route to the site.
The AMSA said it would hold a media briefing in Canberra at 0430 GMT (2.30pm local time).
An unprecedented multinational search for the plane has focused on two vast search corridors: one arcing north overland from Laos towards the Caspian Sea, the other curving south across the Indian Ocean from west of Indonesia's Sumatra island to west of Australia.
Australia is leading the search in the southern part of the southern corridor, with assistance from the US Navy.