The wife of a British journalist who has gone missing in a remote corner of the Brazilian Amazon notorious for illegal mining and drug trafficking has urged authorities to intensify their search efforts.
Dom Phillips, a longtime Guardian contributor, vanished on Sunday morning while journeying by boat through the Javari region of Amazonas state where he was reporting for a book he is writing about conservation.
Alessandra Sampaio, who lives with her husband in the north-eastern city of Salvador, said in statement: “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 … [and] in the forest every second counts, every second could be the difference between life and death,” Sampaio added.
“All I can do is pray that Dom and Bruno [Araújo Pereira] 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.”
Phillips, 57, was travelling with Bruno Araújo Pereira, a celebrated Indigenous expert who has spent years working to protect the more than two dozen tribes who call the rainforests their home.
On Monday night, as a second day of searches came to an end without any sign of the two men.
The journalist’s sister, Sian Phillips, said in a video statement on Monday 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.
“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,” she added.
Security forces and members of the Indigenous agency Funai reportedly spent most of Monday searching for the men on a stretch of river near the town of Atalaia do Norte – the main entry point to the Javari region.
A navy search team was expected to arrive later, amid a growing public outcry.
The two missing men had been due to reach Atalaia do Norte on Sunday morning, having entered the reserve by river the previous week, but never made it to their destination.
“We need an urgent search mission. We need the police, we need the army, we need firefighters, we need civil defence forces. We have no time to lose,” said Beto Marubo, a prominent Indigenous leader from the region who knows both of the missing men.
Phillips, a freelance journalist who has reported on Brazil for more than 15 years, had travelled to the Javari, which is thought to be home to the greatest concentration of uncontacted people on Earth, with Pereira before. In 2018, the British reporter joined the Indigenous protection official on a rare and gruelling expedition through the Austria-sized Indigenous reserve, which he reported on for 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 on Monday.
Marubo voiced 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 huge affection for Dom … he has written several extraordinarily important articles about 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 miners had swarmed into its forests.
“These are systematically organised gangs that are plundering the Javari region,” he said. “They are veritable gangs and they are very violent.”