S.Korea scrambles to bolster heatwave-hit scout jamboree; UK contingent to leave site

By Hyunsu Yim and Daewoung Kim

BUAN, South Korea (Reuters) -South Korean authorities on Friday pledged more water trucks, air-conditioned spaces and medics for tens of thousands of Scouts suffering from a heatwave at the World Scout Jamboree, which began on Tuesday.

Temperatures have hit 34 degrees Celsius (93F) in Saemangeum, the area of reclaimed land near the city of Buan on South Korea’s west coast where 39,000 participants, mostly scouts aged 14-18, are camping.

At least 600 have been treated for heat-related ailments, South Korean officials said.

Scouts from Britain, the largest contingent, said on Friday that they were moving to hotels in the capital Seoul for the rest of their stay, hoping to alleviate the pressure on the site.

“The UK volunteer team has worked extremely hard with the organisers, for our youth members and adult volunteers to have enough food and water to sustain them, shelter from the unusually hot weather, and toilets and washing facilities appropriate for an event of this scale,” UK Scouts said.

President Yoon Suk Yeol called a cabinet meeting to approve spending 6 billion won ($4.6 million) to support the jamboree, and Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said the government would “use its all resources to ensure that the jamboree can end safely”.

Earlier, Yoon had called for an “unlimited” supply of air-conditioned buses and water trucks to be sent to the jamboree, having already ordered in dozens of military doctors and nurses.

Emergency services said most of those ill from the heat had mild symptoms.

With the heatwave forecast to last until next week, some have questioned the viability of the 155-nation jamboree, the first global gathering of Scouts since the coronavirus pandemic, which closes on Aug. 12.

Organisers said they were adapting the programme of events.

“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 Scouts’ director for world events, told reporters.

Yoon’s government was criticised a few weeks ago for its handling of floods that killed over 40 people.

($1 = 1,304 won)

(Additional reporting by Jinmin Jung, Hongji Kim, Soo-hyang Choi and Joyce Lee in Seoul;Editing by Ed Davies, Miral Fahmy and Kevin Liffey)