Rescue teams began the difficult process Saturday of extracting an American researcher who became seriously ill 3,000 feet below a cave entrance in Turkey, officials said.
Bringing Mark Dickie to the surface could take several days as rescuers anticipate they will have to stop and rest frequently at camps set up along the way as they pull his stretcher through narrow passages.
“This afternoon, an operation to move him from his camp at 1,040 meters to a camp at 700 meters began,” Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate, AFAD, told The Associated Press.
The 40-year-old experienced caver started vomiting on September 2 after suffering stomach bleeding during an expedition with a few others to Moraca Cave in the Taurus Mountains of southern Turkey.
Rescuers from across Europe rushed to try and rescue Dicky, including a Hungarian doctor who reached the cave on September 3 and treated him. Doctors gave Dickey IV fluids and 1 gallon of blood inside Cave, authorities said. The teams consist of a doctor and three or four other people who stay with the American at all times.
Mersin Governor Ali Hamza Pahlavan told media on Saturday that 190 personnel from eight countries were assisting in the rescue effort, including doctors, paramedics and experienced cavers. He said 153 of them were search and rescue experts.
He said, “We have received information that his condition is improving due to medical intervention. Till yesterday his condition was stable.”
Speaking to the AP before the rescue operation began, Recep Salci, head of AFAD’s search and rescue department, said the rescue would depend on Dicky’s condition.
“If he feels fine, we will assist him, and he will come out (of the cave) quickly. But if his condition worsens, we will have to bring him on a stretcher.” He said it could take up to 10 days to bring Dicky on a stretcher.
Yusuf Ograncek of the Speleological Federation of Turkey says one of the most difficult tasks of cave rescue operations is widening narrow cave passages to allow stretcher lines to pass at lower depths.
“Stretcher lines are labor intensive and require experienced cave rescuers to work for long periods of time,” Ogranesek said, adding that other complicating factors include navigating through mud and water at low temperatures to long periods of time inside the cave. Including the psychological toll of living longer.
In Rome, Federico Catania, spokesman for Italy’s National Alpine and Speleological Rescue, described the cave as one of the deepest in the world.
“The cave is made up of several vertical shafts, many sections are extremely vertical and there are some horizontal sections where rescue teams are setting up temporary camps,” he said.
Turkish officials provided a video message showing Dickey standing and walking around on Thursday. Alert and talking, he said he was “not healed inside” and needed a lot of help to get out of the cave. He thanked the cave community and the Turkish government for their efforts to rescue them.