Rescuers move US caver, trapped underground in Turkey, closer to surface

Turkish authorities say 40-year-old explorer Mark Dickey could be rescued by Tuesday amid wide-reaching rescue effort.

Rescuers carry US caver Mark Dickey in a cave in southern Turkey
Italian rescuers carry US caver Mark Dickey on a stretcher as part of a rescue operation in Morca cave in Turkey's southern Mersin province, September 11, 2023 [Handout: Italian Alpine Rescue via Reuters]

A United States researcher who became trapped about 1,000 metres (3,000 feet) underground in a cave in southeastern Turkey has been moved closer to the surface, as emergency crews continue to work to free him.

The Speleological Federation of Turkey said on Monday that Mark Dickey, a 40-year-old who became trapped after experiencing gastrointestinal bleeding nine days ago, had been moved to 180 metres (590 feet) below the surface.

The rescue operation will continue after Dickey rests, the federation said in a post on social media.

“If everything goes well, it is aimed to rescue Mark completely by tonight or tomorrow,” it said.

Dickey was on an international exploration expedition in the Morca cave in Mersin province’s Taurus mountains – Turkey’s third deepest cave – when he began suffering from gastrointestinal bleeding at a depth of 1,040 metres (3,400 feet).

More than 150 emergency workers from Turkey and other countries have been deployed to try to rescue Dickey, an experienced cave explorer and rescuer himself.

“I cannot say the exact time [he will exit the cave] but I guess this night or tomorrow morning, if everything goes on the way,” the medical coordinator for the Cave Rescue Commission, Tulga Sener, said on Monday.

Sener added that Dickey is in positive health, “but he cannot be fed through the mouth therefore he is being fed intravenously all the way through”.

Previous footage and images from the operation showed Dickey lying inside the cave and receiving treatment by a medical team.

Footage also showed other teams moving down the caves with ropes and making their way through narrow passages.

Authorities have also said that the complex layout of the cave, with a series of labyrinthine shafts, has complicated rescue efforts.

“It is a very particular phase of the cave here because there are so many slopes it is a bit tricky,” Giuseppe Conti, the European Cave Rescue Association’s technical commission chairperson, told reporters when Dickey was around 200 metres (656 feet) below the surface.

Dickey first began experiencing severe stomach bleeding on September 2.

Workers attend to Mark Dickey, who lays in a sleeping bag
A medical team takes care of Dickey, centre, inside the Morca cave on September 9, 2023 [Marton Kovacs/Hungarian Cave Rescue Service via AP Photo]

A team of rescuers, including doctors and paramedics from across Europe and Turkey, entered the cave to assist him soon after. They have used IV fluids and four litres of blood to help stabilise his condition.

The biggest challenges the rescuers face are the steep vertical sections and navigating through mud and water at low temperatures in the horizontal sections. There is also the psychological toll of staying inside a dark, damp cave for extended periods of time, experts have said.

Temporary medical camps have been set up along the tunnel to provide assistance and resting spots as Dickey is gradually extracted.

The tunnel also needed to be re-equipped with new ropes and a communication line had to be drawn. Some narrow cave passages needed to be widened as Dickey was being moved up on a stretcher.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies