South Korea scrambles to ensure safety of scout jamboree in heatwave

Scouts in South Korea for a global event will receive more cooling resources after hundreds of the teenage participants fell ill this week due to unusually hot weather.

Thousands of scouts in South Korea for a global event will receive more water trucks, air conditioned spaces and medics, officials said, after hundreds of the teenage participants fell ill this week due to unusually hot weather.

At least 600 people at the World Scout Jamboree, which kicked off in southwestern Buan on Tuesday, have so far been treated for heat-related ailments, officials say.

The event coincides with the highest heat warning by authorities in four years, as temperatures in some parts of the country topped 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit this week.

“The government will use its all resources to ensure that the jamboree can end safely amid the heatwave,” Prime Minister Han Duck-soo told a special cabinet meeting called by the president to approve spending 6 billion won ($4.6 million) to support the jamboree.

Some 39,000 participants, most of them scouts aged between 14 and 18, are at the event. A Reuters reporter saw several scouts being stretchered off into a treatment room as temperatures reached as high as 97F in Saemangeum, the area of reclaimed land in Buan where they are camping.

Emergency services had earlier said most of those who fell ill due to the heat had mild symptoms.

Attendees cool off with water at the camp site Choe Young-soo / AP

With the heatwave forecast to last until next week, some activists and parents have questioned the viability of the jamboree, the first global gathering of the scouts since the pandemic.

Organisers said they were modifying the schedule depending on the temperature, adding that the scouts remained resilient.

“Despite the heat and the difficulties and the challenges that they are facing, only 8% reported that they were very unsatisfied with the experience so far,” Jacob Murray, the director for World Events at the Scouts, told reporters.

“We are grateful to the Korean government and provincial government for providing additional resources.”

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Aug. 3, 202301:02

The jamboree comes a few weeks after the government of President Yoon Suk Yeol was criticised for its handling of floods which killed over 40 people. Some residents of Buan said the government should have been better prepared for the heat.

Earlier on Friday, Yoon called for an “unlimited” supply of air-conditioned buses and water trucks to be sent to the jamboree. A day earlier, he ordered dozens of military doctors and nurses to go to the campsite to provide emergency care.

Some 39,000 participants from 155 countries were attending the event as of Friday, according to officials. The event is due to run until Aug. 12.

Britain, which has a large contingent, has sent consular officials to the site, a foreign office spokesperson said.

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