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Team of 150 rescuers try to save US man who fell ill 1,000 metres underground in Turkish cave

Mark Dickey,  40, is an instructor with the US National Cave Rescue Commission (Turkish Government Directorate of Communications via AP)
Mark Dickey, 40, is an instructor with the US National Cave Rescue Commission (Turkish Government Directorate of Communications via AP)

A team of nearly 150 rescuers are about to start the rescue of an American man who became seriously unwell while exploring the Morca Valley in Turkey alongside a research team.

Mark Dickey, 40, is an instructor with the US National Cave Rescue Commission. He was co-leading an expedition to find and map a new passage in the Turkish cave that takes an experienced caver 15 hours to traverse when he started to suffer from gastrointestinal bleeding.

He initially fell ill close to the bottom of the cave at 1,120 metres. He has since been moved to a campsite located 1,040 metres deep.

Units of blood have been delivered to Mr Dickey to help treat his bleeding, which has now stopped. And, while he has regained his ability to walk on his own, he remains unable to get out of the cave without a stretcher.

Talking about the situation, a regional official from Turkey’s disaster relief agency Cenk Yildiz said: “We are now in a position to evacuate him [but] this operation will last at least three or four days.”

The head of the agency’s search and rescue department, Recep Salci, shared that the plan is to lift Dickey on a stretcher and use a security-belt system to lift him through the cave’s narrow openings. He added: “We are trying to expand the narrow areas by making small explosions, by breaking some areas.”

The cave features narrow passages and several rappels that require the use of ropes due to the gradient of the slopes.

To help with the challenging mission ahead, rescuers from across the globe have started to fly into Turkey, including speliologists from Hungary, Italy, Croatia, and America.

According to the European Cave Rescue Association, which is involved in the operation, a mission at this depth is “very rare”, “extremely difficult”, and requires “many very experienced cave rescuers”.