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Rescue of American Caver Begins in Turkey

An international team of at least 190 rescuers on Saturday began the long, difficult process of bringing an American caver to the surface in a process that will likely take days, officials said.

Forty-year-old Mark Dickey was exploring Morca Cave near Anamur, Turkey, in the Taurus Mountains with a team of about 12 others on Sept. 2 when he fell ill with what was determined to be internal bleeding.

The rescuers, from at least six countries and including 153 search and rescue experts, began to gather at the Turkish cave site Friday. The first stage involves bringing Dickey up from his base camp 1,040 meters below the surface to another camp at 700 meters.

Dickey, an experienced caver, was unable to climb out on his own. The Turkish Caving Federation says the team alerted the European Cave Rescue Association.

A Hungarian rescue team that includes a doctor reached Dickey this week and was able to get him medicine, IV fluids and 4 liters of blood and is monitoring him at a “base camp.”

“We have received information that his condition is getting better, thanks to medical intervention. He has been in stable condition as of yesterday,” Mersin Gov. Ali Hamza Pehlivan told the media Saturday.

Rotating teams consisting of a doctor and three or four others are with Dickey at all times.

Dickey appeared in a video message recorded by the rescue team and released Friday. He was in good spirits but said he “was not healed on the inside yet” and would need a lot of help climbing out of the cave.

The head of the Turkish search and rescue team, Recep Salci, told the Reuters news agency Friday that Dickey was now stable enough to be moved but the process would likely take several days.

“If he feels well, we will assist him, and he will come out (of the cave) fast. But if his condition worsens, we will have to bring him up on a stretcher,” Salci told The Associated Press on Saturday. He said that if they need to bring Dickey up in a stretcher, it could take up to 10 days.

Salci said that Dickey’s base camp is in a location where there are many narrow passages and descents where a rope must be used. Some areas can be accessed only by crawling.

It takes a healthy caver 12 hours to get down to the location and 16 hours to climb up, he said. And some areas will require explosives to widen, he added.

Salci said many of the operations are being carried out by teams.

The rescue operation was divided into seven sections, each given to a team from a different country because of its complexity, Salci said Friday.

The European Cave Rescue Association said teams from Turkey, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy and Poland arrived at the scene over the course of the last week. How long the rescue mission will take depends on whether Dickey will require a stretcher on the way out, Werner Zegler, the association’s vice president, told VOA in an interview.

Zegler estimated that it would take three or four days if Dickey did not need a stretcher and up to two weeks if he did. According to Zegler, there were more than 100 rescuers on site. If initial extraction efforts fail, more might be necessary, he said.

In his video message, Dicky thanks the Turkish government and others who reached him initially with medical supplies, which he said saved his life. He also thanked the international community of cave explorers who have responded.

Ivana Konstantinovic of VOA’s Serbian Service contributed to this report. Some information was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.  

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