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American caver rescued after days-long climb from 1,000m deep in Turkish cave

MERSIN, Turkey – An American caver who had become trapped more than 1,000m underground in southern Turkey after falling ill was rescued early on Tuesday, Turkey’s Tumaf caving federation said, after a days-long international rescue operation.

While he was deep underground, the caver, Mr Mark Dickey, 40, who is himself an expert cave rescuer, suffered gastrointestinal bleeding and lost three litres of blood. He was part of an expedition that was exploring the Morca cave, which he entered on Aug 30.

After he became ill, a member of his party made the harrowing, hours-long climb to the surface and alerted the authorities on Sept 2.

That brought more than 180 people from eight countries, including Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Poland and the United States, to help rescue him.

Many of them camped out in the cave or near its opening in a remote part of the Taurus Mountains in Turkey.

The rescuers began moving Mr Dickey up the cave last Saturday afternoon, according to the Speleological Federation of Turkey.

The teams had to navigate some narrow passages, said Mr Yaman Ozakin, a spokesman affiliated with the Turkish cave rescuers.

The rescue teams installed communications systems, blasted open narrow areas so they could move Mr Dickey through on a stretcher, and used lines set up inside the cave to carry the stretcher out.

At one point, Mr Dickey managed to walk a couple of metres to pass narrow paths, making the rescue effort easier, Mr Ozakin added.

Food, water, medicine and blood were delivered to the mouth of the cave and carried down by other cavers. Mr Dickey received intensive medical care, including blood transfusions, while he was in the cave.

A video shot inside the cave last Wednesday showed Mr Dickey wearing a red puffy coat and a headlamp.

“As you can see, I’m up, I’m alert, I’m talking”, Mr Dickey said in the video, “but I’m not healed on the inside yet, so I’m going to need a lot of help to get out of here”.

He added that before medical help arrived, he had felt “very close to the edge”.

Mr Dickey lives in New York state, but he leads the New Jersey Initial Response Team based in Sussex County, New Jersey.

In a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said he had been in touch with Turkish officials about Mr Dickey’s rescue.

Rescue workers said that Mr Dickey had been with two people when he fell ill. Other members of the 14-person expedition were elsewhere in the cave system, or waiting to enter, at the time.

The Morca cave, which is mainly made of limestone, is the third deepest in Turkey, with a depth of 1,276m, according to the Turkish federation.

The European Cave Rescue Association said in a statement that Mr Dickey was a highly trained caver and a well-known figure in the international community of speleologists, or cave experts, who had participated in many expeditions around the world.

He is also a senior member of the European Cave Rescue Association’s medical committee and an instructor for cave rescue organisations in the US, according to the statement. NYTIMES

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