Rescuers rush to save ill US man trapped deep in Turkish cave

Mark Dickey suffered gastrointestinal bleeding more than 1,000m down Morca cave, near Mediterranean coast

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Efforts are continuing to try to rescue an American trapped 1,000 metres underground in a cave in southern Turkey, the Turkish Caving Federation has said.

Nearly 150 rescuers are involved in the complex operation to save Mark Dickey, 40, who was part of a research team in Morca Valley, near Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, the federation said.

On Sunday, Mr Dickey developed internal bleeding while exploring Morca cave and was given an infusion of blood delivered by rescuers and medics.

His condition is deteriorating, said the federation.

“In the Morca Sinkhole, the third deepest cave in Turkey with a depth of 1,276 metres, during an exploration mission involving local and international teams, American caver Mark Dickey fell ill at a depth of 1,120 metres and was placed under observation at the cave base camp located at 1,040 metres,” the federation said on X, formerly Twitter.

Mr Dickey went on the expedition with a number of other explorers, including three other Americans.

While rescuers, including a Hungarian doctor, have reached and treated Mr Dickey, it could be days and possibly weeks before they are able to get him out of the cave, which is too narrow in places for a stretcher to pass through.

In a video message from inside the cave made available on Thursday, Mr Dickey thanked the caving community and the Turkish government for their efforts.

“The caving world is a really tight-knit group and it’s amazing to see how many people have responded on the surface,” he said.

“I do know that the quick response of the Turkish government to get the medical supplies that I need, in my opinion, saved my life. I was very close to the edge.”

Mr Dickey, who is seen standing and moving around in the video, said that although he was alert and talking, he was not “healed on the inside”, and would need a lot of help to get out of the cave.

Doctors will decide whether he will need to leave the cave on a stretcher or if he can leave on foot.

Mr Dickey, who had been bleeding and losing fluid from his stomach, has stopped vomiting and has eaten for the first time in days, according to a New Jersey-based cave rescue group he is affiliated with.

It is unclear what caused his medical issue.

Communication with him takes about five to seven hours and is carried out by runners, who go from Mr Dickey to the camp below the surface where a telephone line to speak with the surface has been set up.

Experts said it will be a challenge to rescue him.

Yusuf Ogrenecek of the Speleological Federation of Turkey said one of the most difficult tasks of rescue operation was widening the narrow cave passages to allow a stretcher to pass.

Stretcher lines are labour intensive and require experienced cave rescuers working long hours, Mr Ogrenecek said.

Other factors range from navigating through mud and water at low temperatures to the psychological toll of staying inside a cave for a long period, he said.

Marton Kovacs of the Hungarian Cave Rescue Service said that the cave was being prepared for Mr Dickey's extraction. Passages are being widened and the danger of falling rocks is also being addressed.

Turkish disaster relief agency Afad and rescue team UMKE are working with Turkish and international cavers on the plan to hoist Mr Dickey out of the cave system, the European Cave Rescue Association said.

Updated: September 08, 2023, 3:01 PM