Morca Cave, Taurus Mountains, southern Turkey
On Sunday 3 September, BCRC Officers were made aware of a medical emergency experienced 1,050 m underground by an expedition caver in Morca Cave, Taurus Mountains, Türkiye, through the European Cave Rescue Association (ECRA). With knowledge of the cave’s depth and complexity and the realistic prospect of a lengthy stretcher evacuation lasting many days, ECRA requested that BCRC should prepare to assist the multiple teams from across Europe (including Hungary, Italy, Croatia, Bulgaria and Poland) preparing to support cave rescuers affiliated with Mağara Kurtarma Komisyonu Türkiye in the cave rescue. Unpaid volunteers from British cave rescue teams were chosen based on their expertise in technical rope rescue and doctors with underground trauma skills and experience. BCRC co-ordinated the team, prepared for a formal request from the Turkish Ministry of Interior – Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) and Mağara Kurtarma Komisyonu Türkiye. ECRA informally coordinates an international response amongst cave rescue teams of its member organisations, to assist the national bodies in the country in which an incident has occurred.
Between Monday and Thursday (4-7 September) the casualty was provided with urgent medical treatment in the underground campsite at a depth of 1,050 m to stabilise and prepare him for extraction. Communications during this time were through a fixed-wire telephone from the entrance to a depth of -500 m assisted by runners carrying messages. Later, a CaveLink wireless system greatly facilitated communications throughout the system.
The BCRC rescue team were asked to be a reserve if more rescuers were required to complete the rescue operation.
As the possibility of asking the British team to help in the cave increased, assistance was gratefully received from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in London and the British Embassy in Ankara. However, the British support was not needed as the extraction proceeded swiftly with no significant medical relapses requiring further personnel or specialist capability. The casualty, an American male, was brought out of Morca Cave at 22:39h BST on Monday 11 September, later the various international cave rescuers safely exited.
We extend our best wishes to the casualty for a rapid and complete recovery following essential hospital treatment and congratulate all the cave rescuers in the European teams who completed medical treatment at significant depth and a very impressive, technical extraction of the casualty. There were very technical and long, vertical hauls to rig and operate, combined with constricted passageways to prepare on the way back to the surface from very deep underground.
We extend our thanks to all the cave rescue controllers and team members from across the UK for willingness to deploy to Türkiye at short notice to assist in the rescue. There were many who spent considerable time sourcing and preparing essential team rescue equipment. We thank the staff of the British Embassy, Ankara and FCDO London for official support and Gallagher Insurance for ensuring there was insurance cover in place should the BCRC team have deployed. We thank colleagues in Mountain Rescue England and Wales (MREW) for access to insurance and offers of material assistance, and to the British Caving Association and MREW for help with media relations. Thanks also to the wider caving community for general support. Finally, we extend our appreciation to the families and employers of the volunteers who truly provide support when cavers rescue cavers.
Chairman, British Cave Rescue Council
Gallery (all pictures courtesy European Cave Rescue Association)
Enquiries on the BCRC or cave rescue operation may be addressed to the following BCRC officers:
Chairman: Peter Dennis, email@example.com
Secretary: Emma Porter, firstname.lastname@example.org
Legal Officer: Toby Hamnett, email@example.com,uk
Bulletins issued by ECRA during the cave rescue operation can be found at: https://caverescue.eu/
Key organisations involved:
Turkish Ministry of Interior – Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD)
Mağara Kurtarma Komisyonu Türkiye – Cave Rescue Commission of Türkiye
European Cave Rescue Association (ECRA)
Magyar Barlangi Mentőszolgálat, Hungary
Hrvatska Gorska Služba Spašavanja, Croatia
Grupa Ratownictwa Jaskiniowego, Poland