Rescuers from across Europe have joined forces to bring back to the surface a New Jersey researcher who became trapped underground.
Mark Dickey, 40, became stuck after he became “very sick” as he explored the Morca cave in Turkey’s Taurus Mountains, according to the European Association of Cave Rescuers.
Dickey was in the cave with a handful of other explorers, including three more Americans.
Before he became trapped, Dickey experienced bleeding and was unable to eat but he has slowly been recovering and stopped vomiting, according to members of a New Jersey-based cave rescue group.
The speleologist was on a mission to map out the 1,276-metre-deep Morca cave system on behalf of the Anatolian Speleology Group Association (ASPEG) when he started feeling sick.
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New Jersey’s Initial Response Team said the rescue of the American researcher would require several rescue teams and constant medical care.
Communication has been maintained via runners and it currently takes between five and seven hours for messages from his underground camp to reach the surface.
Dickey still managed to share a video from 1,000 metres underground thanking all the rescuers converging into southern Turkey to help pull him out.
In the video, he said: “Hi! Mark Dickey from nearly a thousand metres.
“The caving world is a really tight-knit group and it’s amazing to see how many people have responded on the surface.
“We’re still waiting for communications actually to reach down here. So right now it’s a day or two days of travel for information to get back and forth.”
He added: “I don’t quite know what’s happened, but I do know that the quick response of the Turkish government to get the medical supplies that I need, in my opinion, saved my life. I was very close to the edge.”
European Association of Cave Rescuers chief Dinko Novosel conceded the rescue efforts will be a challenge and will involve teams coming in from Italy, Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland and Turkey.
The association said Dickey is currently unable to hoist himself back to the surface because of the gastrointestinal bleeding he experienced earlier in his exploration.
They noted the American researcher is “a highly trained caver and a cave rescuer himself” and is a member of the association, serving as the secretary of its medical committee.
Colleague Yusuf Ogrenecek from the Speleological Federation of Turkey told the Associated Press that Dickey remained “in good spirits” and his condition has slowly been improving.
Rescuers have been flying in for the past day, and 50 of them will be outside of the cave starting Friday morning to commence setting up the rescue operation.
They hope the actual operation will begin on Saturday or Sunday. The cave will be divided into sections, with every group of rescuers in charge of a specific portion.
Hungarian Cave Rescue Service’s Marton Kovacs estimated that pulling Dickey back to the surface could take several days and arrangements are being made to provide him and his rescuers shelter to rest.