Brazil: concerns growing for priest missing on balloon flight

 Concerns are growing for a Catholic priest who has been missing since Sunday after setting out on a flight using 1,000 helium balloons to try to break a record and raise charity funds. Father Adelir de Carli lifted off from the port city of Paranagua, equipped with a parachute, thermal suit, satellite phone and a GPS device. He was planning to fly over a jungle area. Instead he was swept out to sea. A rescue operation was started after he lost contact with port authority officials late on Sunday. Fr de Carli He wanted to break a 19-hour record for the most hours flying with balloons. He was also hoping to raise money to fund a rest stop for lorry drivers in Paranagua, one of Brazil's major ports for agricultural products. As well as his GPS and satellite phone, he was equipped with a buoyant chair. He is also an experienced skydiver. In a phone interview with Brazilian TV channel Globo on Sunday, he said he was having difficulty operating his GPS device, and was "very cold, but fine". He was said to have reached an altitude of 20,000ft (6,000m), then descended to about 8,200ft for his planned flight to the city of Dourados. But he was blown off course by winds and when last contacted was floating several miles off the coast. Before losing contact, he said he had to land in the sea as he was "losing height". Planes and helicopters of the Brazilian air force as well as boats of the Brazilian navy are searching off the coast of Santa Catarina state, where pieces of balloons were found on a beach. In January, Fr de Carli used the same mode of transport to fly over 110km (70 miles) in four hours between Parana and the nearby Argentine city of San Antonio.

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