Rescue experts are working to save a 40-year-old speleologist who fell ill more than 3,280ft (1,000m) inside a cave in southern Turkey.
Mark Dickey became sick during an international expedition in Morca Cave in the Taurus Mountains, within Mersin province, according to the European Cave Rescue Association.
He has gastrointestinal bleeding and has been unable to leave the cave on his own, the association said on its website.
It described Mr Dickey as “a highly trained caver and a cave rescuer himself” who is well known for his participation in many international expeditions. He is also secretary of the association’s medical committee.
Mr Dickey was on an expedition mapping the 4,186ft (1,276m) deep cave system for the Anatolian Speleology Group Association (Aspeg) before falling ill at a depth of around 3,280ft (1,000m), according to Yusuf Ogrenecek, of the Speleological Federation of Turkey.
Turkish disaster relief agency Afad and rescue team UMKE are working with Turkish and international cavers on a plan to hoist Mr Dickey out of the cave system, the rescue association said.
Mr Ogrenecek told the Associated Press that Mr Dickey’s condition has stabilised, and he is in “good spirits”.
“Mark’s condition continues to improve,” the federation tweeted. “Doctors will decide whether it is possible for him to leave without a stretcher.”
More than 170 people are involved in the rescue operation, including doctors, paramedics who are tending to Mr Dickey, and experienced cavers, Mr Ogrenecek said
He added that the mission could take up to two to three weeks, but it could be shorter, depending on the situation.
A team of rescuers from Italy’s National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Team will be flying to Turkey on Thursday night.
A total of around 50 rescuers will be at the entrance of the cave early on Friday, ready to participate in the operation directed by Turkish authorities.
Marton Kovacs, of the Hungarian Cave Rescue Service, said the cave is being prepared for Mr Dickey’s safe extraction.
Narrow passages are being widened to accommodate a stretcher, and the danger of falling rocks is also being addressed.
The rescue teams, which are from Hungary, Bulgaria, Italy, Croatia and Poland, hope the extraction can begin on Saturday or Sunday.
Mr Kovacs said that lifting Mr Dickey out is likely to take several days, and that several bivouac points are being prepared along the way so that he and the rescuers can rest.
The cave has been divided into several sections, with each country’s team being responsible for one section.
The Hungarian Cave Rescue Service, made up of volunteer rescuers, was the first to arrive at Mr Dickey’s location and provided emergency blood transfusions to stabilise his condition.
An additional Hungarian team of 15-20 rescuers will leave Hungary on Thursday evening on a military plane provided by the government and arrive at the rescue site on Friday morning, Mr Kovacs said.
Six mountain rescuers, including two medics, have left for Antalya to help with the rescue operation, Jerzy Siodlak, the head of Poland’s mountain rescue service, GOPR, told Radio RMF24 on Wednesday.
Thirteen other rescuers from southern Poland are also ready to join the rescue operation, GOPR officials said.
Mr Siodlak noted that the mission will be a challenging one given the condition of the American and the need to keep him medically fit for the rescue operation in difficult conditions.
He also stressed the need to provide the rescuers with light and communication possibilities at the depth Mr Dickey is at.