By Soo-hyang Choi and Hyunsu Yim
SEOUL (Reuters) -South Korea is sending dozens of military doctors and nurses to help out at the camp site of a global scout event on Thursday after hundreds of teenage participants fell ill from the heatwave gripping the country.
At least 600 participants at the World Scout Jamboree, which kicked off in southwestern Buan on Tuesday, have so far been treated for heat-related ailments, officials said.
The event coincides with the most severe heat warning by the government in four years, as temperatures in some parts of the country exceed 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit) this week.
“Most of them were experiencing mild symptoms, such as headache, dizziness and nausea and all returned to their camp sites,” a fire official in North Jeolla province, southwest of Seoul, told reporters.
More than 43,000 participants, most of them scouts aged between 14 and 18, are attending the jamboree, the first global gathering of the scouts since the pandemic. They are camping on an area of reclaimed land where temperatures are expected to reach 35C on Thursday.
Nationwide, at least 16 people have died because of the heat so far this year. British celebrity adventurer Bear Grylls, who kicked off the jamboree as Chief Scout, urged attendees to stay hydrated.
“It’s hot. Look out for each other please,” he said in an Instagram post.
South Korea’s weather agency expects the heatwave to last until next week. The scout event ends Aug. 14.
Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo ordered 30 military physicians and 60 nurses to go to the camp to handle emergencies, his office said. Earlier, Interior and Safety Minister Lee Sang-min called for more ambulances, shuttle buses and air conditioners to remain on stand-by.
Kristin Sayers, a parent from the U.S. state of Virginia, said her son initially had to sleep on the ground at the camp because the tents were not ready. A fellow scout needed to be seen by medics due to the heat, she added.
“The Scout motto is ‘Be Prepared’. How could the organizers be so unprepared? I’m disappointed my son’s dream is looking more like a nightmare,” she told Reuters.
The ministry overseeing the event’s organisation said it was monitoring the weather to ensure the participants safety.
(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi; editing by Jack Kim, Ed Davies, Miral Fahmy)