“Every second counts”: The wife of a British journalist who disappeared on Amazon asks to act

The wife of a British journalist who has disappeared in a remote corner of the Brazilian Amazon, known for illegal mining and drug trafficking, has urged authorities to intensify their search efforts.

Dom Phillips, a longtime Guardian contributor, disappeared Sunday morning while traveling by boat through the Amazon region of Javari where he was reporting on a book he is writing about conservation.

Brazilian Alessandra Sampaio, who lives with her husband in the northeastern city of Salvador, said in a statement: “Brazilian authorities, our families are desperate. Please respond to the urgency of the moment with urgent action. .

“When I made this call, it’s been more than 30 hours since they disappeared … [and] in the forest every second counts, every second could be the difference between life and death “, added Sampaio.

“All I can do is pray that Dom and Bruno [Araújo Pereira] they’re fine, somewhere, and they can’t continue their journey because of some mechanical problem, and that all this will end up being just one more story in these full lives. “

Phillips, 57, was traveling with Bruno Araújo Pereira, a famous indigenous expert who has been working for years to protect the more than two dozen tribes that call the rainforests their home.

When a second day of searching ended with no sign of the two men, the journalist’s sister, Sian Phillips, said Monday night in a video statement: “We knew it was a dangerous place, but Dom really thought it was possible. to safeguard it.the nature and livelihood of the natives.

“We are very concerned about him and urge the Brazilian authorities to do everything possible to find the routes he is following. If anyone can help increase the resources for the search, it would be great because time is of the essence.

“We love our brother and we want him and his Brazilian guide to meet … every minute counts,” he added.

Security forces and members of the Funai indigenous agency spent most of Monday searching for men on a stretch of river near the town of Atalaia do Norte, the main entry point into the Javari region.

A Navy search team was expected to arrive later, amid growing public outcry.

The two missing were due to arrive in Atalaia do Norte on Sunday morning, after entering the river reserve the previous week, but never reached their destination.

Phillips and Pereira had traveled to the region around a Funai monitoring base and arrived at Lake Jaburu on Friday evening, the Javari Valley Union of Indigenous Organizations and the Peoples’ Human Rights Observatory said. Indigenous Isolated and Recently Contacted.

The couple began their return trip early Sunday, stopping in the community of Sao Rafael, where Pereira had scheduled a meeting with a local leader to talk about indigenous patrols to fight the “intense invasions” that are taking place. producing on their lands, the groups said. .

When the community leader did not arrive, the men decided to continue on to Atalaia do Norte, a two-hour drive, they said.

They were last seen shortly afterwards near the community of Sao Gabriel, just downstream of Sao Rafael.

The couple were traveling in a new boat with 70 gallons of gasoline – “enough for the trip” – and were using satellite communications equipment, the groups said.

Two fishermen in the area were arrested by police in the area on Monday night, according to the newspaper O Globo. It is unclear why they were arrested and have since been released.

Beto Marubo, a prominent indigenous leader in the region who knows the two missing men, said: “We need an urgent search mission. We need the police, we need the army, we need firefighters, we need civil protection forces. We don’t have time to to lose”.

Phillips, a freelance journalist who has reported on Brazil for more than 15 years, had traveled to Javari, which is believed to be home to the largest concentration of uncontacted people on Earth, with Pereira before. In 2018, the British journalist joined the Indigenous Protection Officer on a rare and grueling expedition through the Austrian-sized Indigenous Reserve, which he reported to the Guardian.

“I want you to know that Dom Phillips, my husband, loves Brazil and he loves the Amazon. He could have chosen to live anywhere in the world, but he chose here,” his wife said Monday.

Marubo expressed admiration for the journalist, who has reported extensively on the growing crisis facing Brazil’s environment and indigenous communities in recent years, as deforestation has soared.

“I feel great affection for Dom … he has written several extraordinarily important articles on the Javari Valley that have helped draw attention to our problems,” the indigenous leader said, adding that the region had become increasingly dangerous in recent years as gangs of illegal hunters. and the miners had swarmed into their woods.

“These are systematically organized gangs that are looting the Javari region,” he said. “They’re real gangs and they’re very violent.”

With Agence France-Presse

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