Wife of British journalist missing in Amazon begs for help to find him

‘Every second counts’: Devastated wife of British journalist missing in remote Amazon begs for help to find him as Brazilian cops ‘arrest two fishermen’

  • Dom Phillips disappeared Sunday morning during a boat trip in Javari region
  • The journalist was travelling with Indigenous expert Bruno Araújo Pereira 
  • Dom’s wife and sister have desperately appealed to authorities to find them
  • Last night, two fishermen were arrested and released without explanation 
  • The devastated wife of a British journalist who has gone missing in a remote part of the Amazon rainforest has desperately pleaded for ‘urgent actions’, adding ‘every second counts.’

    Dom Phillips, a contributor for The Guardian, disappeared Sunday morning in the Brazilian Javari region while researching a book in an area notorious for illegal mining and drug trafficking, along with Indigenous expert Bruno Araújo Pereira.

    Locals had said the pair had faced ‘threats’ before their disappearance and last night, two fishermen were arrested in connection with the case and later released without explanation. 

    Veteran foreign correspondent Dom Phillips is missing in the remote Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Pictured in 2019 in Roraima State

    Veteran foreign correspondent Dom Phillips is missing in the remote Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Pictured in 2019 in Roraima State

    The journalist disappeared Sunday morning in the Brazilian Javari region while researching a book

    The journalist disappeared Sunday morning in the Brazilian Javari region while researching a book

    The Javari region is an area notorious for illegal mining and drug trafficking, and the pair had reportedly faced threats before their disappearance

    The Javari region is an area notorious for illegal mining and drug trafficking, and the pair had reportedly faced threats before their disappearance

    Dom’s wife Alessandra Sampaio, who lives with him in the north-eastern Brazilian city of Salvador, said in a statement, according to The Guardian: ‘Brazilian authorities, our families are in despair. Please answer the urgency of the moment with urgent actions.

    ‘As I make this appeal they have been missing for more than 30 hours… in the forest every second counts, every second could be the difference between life and death.

    ‘All I can do is pray that Dom and Bruno are well, somewhere, and unable to continue with their journey because of some mechanical problem, and that all this will end up being just another story in these full lives of theirs.’

    Dom and Bruno were last seen in the early hours of Sunday when they were expected to make a two-hour boat trip to Atalaia do Norte, with their arrival planned for 8am, but they never arrived.

    The Itaquai River runs through the Vale do Javari region in Amazonas state, near the border with Peru

    The Itaquai River runs through the Vale do Javari region in Amazonas state, near the border with Peru

    Dom and Bruno were last seen in the early hours of Sunday when they were expected to make a two-hour boat trip to Atalaia do Norte

    Dom and Bruno were last seen in the early hours of Sunday when they were expected to make a two-hour boat trip to Atalaia do Norte

    Bruno has spent years working to protect the dozens of local tribes who live in the remote rainforest.

    Yesterday, security forces and members of Funai, an Indigenous agency, scoured a stretch of river near Atalaia do Norte.

    A naval search team is expected to join the search for the pair who entered the reserve last week.

    The Union of Indigenous Organizations of the Javari Valley (UNIVAJA) and the Observatory for the Human Rights of Isolated and Recently Contacted Indigenous Peoples (OPI) said in a statement the men had ‘received threats in the field the week they disappeared’.

    Their boat was new and had 70 litres of gasoline, more than enough for the trip, and they were using satellite communication

    Their boat was new and had 70 litres of gasoline, more than enough for the trip, and they were using satellite communication 

    Bruno has regularly received threats from loggers and miners trying to invade isolated indigenous groups' land

    Bruno has regularly received threats from loggers and miners trying to invade isolated indigenous groups’ land

    Before their disappearance, they had stopped in the community of Sao Rafael where Bruno had arranged a meeting with a local tribe leader to discuss patrols to fight the ‘intense invasions’ on their lands.

    But the leader did not arrive and the men decided to continue on their journey towards Atalaia do Norte.

    Bruno has regularly received threats from loggers and miners trying to invade isolated indigenous groups’ land. 

    Their boat was new and had 70 litres of gasoline, more than enough for the trip, and they were using satellite communication.

    Dom’s sister Sian Phillips said last night: ‘We knew it was a dangerous place but Dom really believed it’s possible to safeguard the nature and the livelihood of the Indigenous people.

    The Javari is thought to be home to the biggest concentration of uncontacted people in the world

    The Javari is thought to be home to the biggest concentration of uncontacted people in the world

    ‘We are really worried about him and urge the authorities in Brazil to do all they can to search the routes he was following. If anyone can help scale up resources for the search that would be great because time is crucial.

    ‘We love our brother and want him and his Brazilian guide found … every minute counts.’ 

    The Javari is thought to be home to the biggest concentration of uncontacted people in the world, and Dom travelled there with Bruno in 2018.

    The Guardian said in a statement it was ‘very concerned’ about Phillips, whose work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and other leading media.

    ‘We condemn all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers. We are hopeful that Dom and those he was traveling with are safe and will be found soon,’ it said.

    The uncontacted indigenous tribes of Brazil’s Amazon

    Brazil’s Amazon is home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere in the world. There are thought to be at least 100 isolated groups in this rainforest, according to the government’s Indian affairs department FUNAI.

    Their decision not to maintain contact with other tribes and outsiders is almost certainly a result of previous disastrous encounters and the ongoing invasion and destruction of their forest home.

    Very little is known about these peoples. What is known is that they wish to remain uncontacted: they have shot arrows at outsiders and airplanes, or they simply avoid contact by hiding deep in the forest.

    In Acre there could be as many as 600 indigenous individuals belonging to four different groups. Here they live in relative tranquility in several demarcated territories which are largely untouched.

    It is possible that up to 300 uncontacted people live in the Massacó territory in Rondônia.

    They use enormous bows and arrows – one bow was found measuring over four metres – very similar in size and design to the Sirionó tribe live in neighbouring Bolivia.

    They clearly like to eat tortoises as mounds of shells have been found in abandoned camps.

    However, other uncontacted groups are teetering on the edge of extinction with no more than a handful of individuals left.

    A recent report says that some of them are abandoning their land due to the noise and pollution from the construction sites.

    All are extremely vulnerable to diseases like flu or the common cold transmitted by outsiders and to which they have no resistance: good reasons to avoid contact.

    Source: Survival International

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