ISTANBUL: An international team of rescuers on Tuesday pulled to safety a US explorer Mark Dickey who spent nine days trapped deep in the narrow tunnels of a Turkish cave with internal bleeding.
“Mark Dickey was removed from the last exit of the cave,” the Turkish Caving Federation said, adding that the “cave rescue part of the operation has ended successfully.”
The 40-year-old explorer developed stomach problems while examining the depths of the Morca Cave, a remote complex of twisting underground passageways in southern Turkey’s Taurus Mountains.
The cave, Turkey’s third-deepest, reaches nearly 1.3 kilometres (0.8 miles) below ground at its lowest point.
Dickey fell ill at a depth of 1,120 metres (3,695 feet), sparking what organisers said was one of the largest and most complicated underground rescue operations ever mounted.
An international team of 200 rescuers, fellow explorers and medics began to cautiously pull Mark Dickey to safety after first giving him infusions of blood.
They first strapped him to a stretcher, which sometimes needed to be lifted vertically by a rope through particularly narrow passageways.
The teams pulling the ropes would occasionally take breaks, climbing back up to the surface before returning underground.
“We congratulate all those who contributed,” the Turkish Caving Federation said.
Mark Dickey in good health
Officials said Dickey’s health has been steadily improving for a few days.
“He is in good health in general. He continues to be fed with liquids,” Cenk Yildiz, the head of the local branch of Turkey’s emergency response service, told reporters late on Sunday.
“We have resolved his stomach bleeding issues with plasma and serum support.”
In a video recorded on Wednesday, Dickey thanked the Turkish government for its help.
“The quick response of the Turkish government to get the medical supplies that I needed, in my opinion, saved my life,” Dickey said.
The European Cave Rescue Association (ECRA) called Dickey an experienced explorer with a medical background.
The New York state native is a “well-known figure in the international speleological community, a highly trained caver, and a cave rescuer himself,” the ECRA said.
“In addition to his activities as a speleologist, he is also the secretary of the ECRA medical committee and an instructor for cave rescue organisations in the USA.”