The wife of a British journalist who went missing in a remote corner of the Brazilian Amazon, notorious for illegal mining and drug trafficking, has urged authorities to step up their search.
Dom Phillips, a longtime contributor to Guardian, disappeared Sunday morning while traveling by boat through the Javari region of Amazonas state, reporting on a book he is writing on conservation.
Brazilian Alessandra Sampaio, who lives with her husband in the northeastern city of Salvador, said in a statement: “Brazilian authorities, our families are in despair. Respond to the urgency of the moment with urgent actions.
“As I make this call, they have been missing for over 30 hours… [and] in the forest every second counts, every second can be the difference between life and death,” Sampaio added.
“All I can do is pray that Dom and Bruno [Araújo Pereira] feeling good, somewhere, and not being able to continue their journey because of a mechanical problem, and that all of this will eventually just become another story in their entire lives.”
Phillips, 57, traveled with Bruno Araújo Pereira, a celebrated indigenous expert who spent years protecting the more than two dozen tribes that call the rainforests home.
As a second day of search ended without any sign of the two men, the journalist’s sister, Sian Phillips, said in a video statement Monday night: “We knew it was a dangerous place, but Dom really believed it was possible the nature and the livelihoods of the indigenous population.
“We are very concerned about him and are urging authorities in Brazil to do everything they can to search the routes he took. If someone can help scale the search resources that would be great, because time is of the essence.
“We love our brother and want him and his Brazilian guide to be found…every minute counts,” she added.
Security forces and members of the Funai indigenous agency reportedly spent most of Monday searching for the men on a stretch of river near the town of Atalaia do Norte – the main gateway to the Javari region.
A naval search team would arrive later, amid growing public outcry.
The two missing men were said to reach Atalaia do Norte on Sunday morning, having entered the reserve via the river the week before, but never reached their destination.
Phillips and Pereira had traveled to the region around a Funai monitoring base and reached Lake Jaburu on Friday evening, according to the Union of Indigenous Organizations of the Javari Valley and the Observatory for the Human Rights of Isolated and Recently Contacted Indigenous Peoples.
The pair started the return journey early on Sunday, stopping in the community of Sao Rafael, where Pereira had scheduled a meeting with a local leader to discuss indigenous patrols to combat the “intense invasions” that have taken place on their land, the pair said. groups. †
When the community leader failed to arrive, the men decided to proceed to Atalaia do Norte, a journey of about two hours, they said.
They were last sighted shortly afterwards near the community of Sao Gabriel, just downstream from Sao Rafael.
The pair traveled in a new boat carrying 70 liters of gasoline — “enough for the trip” — and used satellite communications equipment, the groups said.
According to the newspaper O Globo, two fishermen in the area were arrested by the police on Monday evening. It is still unclear why they were arrested.
Beto Marubo, a prominent indigenous leader from the region who knows both of the missing men, said: “We need an urgent search mission. We need the police, we need the military, we need firefighters, we need civil defense. We have no time to lose.”
Phillips, a freelance journalist who has covered Brazil for more than 15 years, had previously traveled with Pereira to the Javari, which is believed to be home to the largest concentration of uncontacted people on Earth. In 2018, the British reporter accompanied the Indigenous Conservation Officer on a rare and grueling expedition through the Indigenous Reserve the size of Austria, which he reported on for the Guardian.
“I want you to know that Dom Phillips, my husband, loves Brazil and the Amazon. He could have chosen to live anywhere in the world, but he chose here,” his wife said Monday.
Marubo expressed his admiration for the journalist, who has extensively covered the growing crisis affecting the environment in Brazil and its indigenous communities in recent years, while deforestation has skyrocketed.
“I feel tremendous affection for Dom…he has written several extremely important articles about the Javari Valley that have helped draw attention to our problems,” said the indigenous leader, adding that the region has become increasingly dangerous in recent years. become like bands of illegal hunters and miners had swarmed into the woods.
“These are systematically organized gangs that loot the Javari region,” he said. “They are real gangs and they are very violent.”
With Agence France-Presse