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Page last updated at 16:15 GMT, Wednesday, 23 April 2008 17:15 UK

'Flying' priest's balloons found

A cluster of coloured balloons floating off the Brazilian coast that were used last Sunday by Catholic priest Adelir Antonio di Carli, 22 April, 2008
Rescuers found balloons used by Fr Carli, but there was no sign of him

Search crews in Brazil have found a bundle of balloons off the coast that were being used by a priest who went missing trying to set a flight record.

Father Adelir de Carli lifted off from the port city of Paranagua on Sunday strapped to 1,000 helium balloons.

Although equipped with flotation equipment, a satellite phone and GPS, contact was lost with him late on Sunday after he was blown off course.

He wanted to break a 19-hour record for the most hours flying with balloons.

He was trying to raise funds to provide a rest stop for lorry drivers in Paranagua, a major port for agricultural products.

Rescue hopes

Father Carli's bundle of brightly-coloured balloons was found floating in the Atlantic Ocean off Santa Catarina state, near the point where he last made contact with authorities on the ground.

Rescue officials were holding out hopes he would still be found alive.

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The priest was attempting to break a flying record

He was wearing a helmet, parachute, thermal flight suit, waterproof coveralls and a buoyant chair. He is also an experienced skydiver.

"Given his physical condition and the equipment he was carrying, I would say there is 80% chance that he is still alive," said Johnny Coelho, chief of the Penha Fire Department.

Father Carli, a Roman Catholic priest, was carrying enough food and water for five days and there was a chance he was still drifting in the ocean or had been washed ashore on a remote section of the coast, said Mr Coelho.

'Losing height'

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".

Brazil map

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".

In January, the priest 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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