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Police seize wood in Amazon town

Illegally cut trunks are loaded up and taken away for auction.

February 24, 2008|From the Associated Press

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL — Heavily armed federal police swarmed an Amazon town Saturday, seizing more than 500 truckloads of illegally cut hardwood that were previously confiscated but abandoned when rioting residents and loggers drove out environmental authorities.

About 450 officers retook the town of Tailandia, patrolling on horseback and in pickup trucks and standing guard outside sawmills.

At least 2,000 enraged residents burned tires, blocked roads and forced Environmental Protection Agency workers to flee the area Tuesday.

The force sent in Saturday allowed the seizure of the wood to resume and prevented any new violence, federal police officer Fernando Alberto Silva told Globo TV.

"Order was reestablished peacefully," he said.

Huge trunks of precious hardwood were loaded onto flatbed trucks to be taken away and auctioned off by the government, which plans to use the proceeds for rain forest protection.

So much wood was seized that it will take authorities nearly three weeks to cart it all away. Its value was estimated at $1.8 million, Globo TV said.

The Tailandia campaign is part of a larger government push to prevent an apparent rise in illegal logging and burning that threatens to reverse three straight years of declines in deforestation in the Amazon.

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