José Fernández, the governor of the Magallanes region, said relatives of the missing passengers have been informed but did not give many details about the discovery.
“We received information today from the air force, telling us that they’d found some wreckage from the plane as well as remains of people who were on board,” Mr Fernández said.
Sharing the full story, not just the headlines
“It is a very sad moment.”
Chile’s Air Force announced earlier that debris had been found floating near where the C-130 Hercules cargo plane last made contact before it vanished two days ago.
General Eduardo Mosqueira told reporters that “sponge” material, possibly from the plane’s fuel tank, was found roughly 20 miles from the area.
He added that the debris will be analysed to see if it matches with the missing plane, which was en route to a military base in the Antarctic.
The C-130 Hercules was carrying 17 crew members and 21 passengers, including three civilians, who were travelling to check on a floating fuel supply line and other equipment at the Chilean base.
Officials have said the plane took off in favourable conditions on Monday, although it was flying in an area known for rapidly changing weather conditions.
Both pilots also had extensive experience, the air force said, and the plane was in good condition.
Despite being built in 1978, a well-maintained four-engine C-130 is typically expected to fly for more than 50 years.
No emergency signals were activated on the plane before it lost contact about halfway to the Antarctic base, officials said.
Only the best news in your inbox
Register with your social account or click here to log in
Ed Coleman, a pilot and expert in aeronautical safety, told AP that rapidly changing weather in the Antarctic makes it a challenging place for flying, with smooth sea landing nearly impossible.
He said that air masses converge in the region, driving storms with powerful wind gusts and stirring the sea with swells of six metres or bigger.
“You can have a clear sky one minute, and in a short time later storms can be building up making it a challenge,” Mr Coleman said.
Additional reporting by AP