Al Jazeera's Gabriel Elizondo reported, quoting the Brazilian navy, that search teams had found as many as 100 pieces of various types of debris.

"They say they have also spotted more bodies. Although they have not said how many bodies they have seen from the air, they are sending navy cutters to the area now to retrieve them," our correspondent said.

"They seem to be making some serious progress in finding an area and starting to recover some bodies and debris."

Forensic teams

The wreckage and other items found in the ocean were being taken to the Fernando de Noronha archipelago, off the northeast coast of Brazil, for initial inspection by police forensic teams.

From there, the evidence will be flown to the mainland city of Recife for further analysis by French officials.

In depth

 Focus: Agony for Brazil jet crash families 
Timeline: Air France accidents 
Profile: Airbus A330-200 

Route map of Air France 447
 Brazil passengers await fate of Air France plane
Air France jet goes missing over Atlantic

The bodies will also be flown to Recife, where a mortuary has been set up to work on identifying the victims.

Relatives of those on board the airliner have already given DNA samples to help identify their loved ones.

The search for the Airbus A330-200's "black box" - the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder - is becoming more urgent as it will continue emitting a radio signal for only another three weeks.

After this period, the instruments will be near impossible to locate in the deep ocean.

The French navy has already deployed two deep-water submarines for the mission.

And the US navy is expected to send two "pinger" locator devices, which can pick up radio signals from the black box, to assist in the search, Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, told our correspondent late on Sunday night.

It has been confirmed that the aircraft, which was flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, broadcast a series of 24 automatic error messages as its systems shut down one-by-one in its final minutes on Monday.

Conflicting data

French accident investigators said the cockpit instruments were receiving conflicting speed data at the time of the incident.

Air France said on Saturday that it had accelerated existing plans to replace airspeed-monitoring units in its jets.

Investigators need the debris and the 'black box' to determine the cause of the crash [AFP]
The airline said it began noticing "incidents of loss of airspeed information during cruise flight" on its twin-engine A330s and four-engine A340s in May last year.

It said it informed Airbus of the problem.

The device in question is the Pitot probe, usually on the leading edge of a wing, which measures the force of the air through which an aircraft passes.

Dominique Bussereau, France's transport minister, said it was too early for investigators to identify the most likely cause of the crash, but confirmed that Airbus jets had experienced problems with speed monitors.

"Too low a speed can cause the plane to stall, or too high a speed can lead to it ripping up as it approached the speed of sound, as the outer skin is not designed to resist such speed," he said.