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Hundreds fall ill at scout event in South Korea heatwave

UK Foreign Office monitoring ‘situation closely’ with nearly 4,500 Britons participating in event

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Thursday 03 August 2023 13:03 BST
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Related: Expert warns of heart attack risk as heatwaves intensify due to climate change

At least 400 people have been treated for heat-related illness at a scout gathering in South Korea, raising safety concerns amid an ongoing heatwave.

Over 43,000 young scouts from 158 countries are participating in the World Scout Jamboree held on land reclaimed from the sea in the south-western town of Buan.

The two-week-long outdoor event began on Tuesday as authorities issued the highest-level warning for extreme temperatures for the first time in four years.

During the opening ceremony on Wednesday, at least 108 people suffered from heat-related illnesses and exhaustion and were taken to the hospital, the authorities said. The ceremony was attended by president Yoon Suk Yeol along with chief scout, Bear Grylls.

The temperature there reached 35C on Wednesday.

While most of them have recovered, at least 39 people remain in treatment at an on-site hospital, said Choi Chang-haeng, secretary-general of the Jamboree's organising committee.

By Thursday the number of people falling sick due to extreme temperatures had risen to at least 400. "Most of them were experiencing mild symptoms, such as headache, dizziness and nausea and all returned to their cam sites," a Jeonbuk Fire Service official said.

The country's interior minister Lee Sang-min has asked organisers to take "all available measures" to ensure safety of the event. The ministry has ordered more ambulances, shuttle buses and air conditioners to remain on standby to ensure the safety of participants.

He said the goal is to prevent "even one serious illness or death", according to the ministry.

There had been concerns about holding the event in a vast, treeless area lacking refuge from the heat but the secretary general insisted that the event was safe enough to continue.

Attendees of the 25th World Scout Jamboree arrive at a scout camping site in the Saemangeum reclamation area in Buan (EPA)

"The participants came from afar and hadn't yet adjusted (to the weather)," Mr Choi said at a news briefing. He said a large number of patients could be linked to a K-pop performance during the opening ceremony, which he said left many of the teenagers "exhausted after actively releasing their energy".

Additional medical personnel, including about 30 doctors and 60 nurses were kept brought in to treat the patients, he said, adding that six helicopters were on standby.

“We will ensure that Scout youths can enjoy the jamboree safely and in good health."

The UK Foreign Office said it was monitoring the situation closely as Britain is expected to have sent the largest contingent with about 4,500 scouts.

“Consular officials have been deployed on site to support attendees, and we are in regular contact with both Scouts UK and the Korean authorities to ensure the safety of British nationals," a spokesperson was quoted by The Guardian as saying.

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