South Korea is sending dozens of military doctors and nurses to help out at the campsite of a global scout event after hundreds of teenage participants fell ill from the heatwave gripping the country.
At least 600 participants have so far been treated for heat-related ailments, officials said on Thursday.
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Approximately 43,000 people from across the world are currently taking part in the World Scout Jamboree – known as the world’s largest youth camp.
This year, the event is being held in North Jeolla province where a heatwave warning is in place, with temperatures hovering at about 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) daily.
There were roughly 400 cases of heat exhaustion on the first night at the campsite, organisers said, adding that people were being treated at a makeshift hospital on the campgrounds.
“Most of them were experiencing mild symptoms, such as headache, dizziness and nausea and all returned to their campsites,” a fire official in North Jeolla province, southwest of Seoul, told reporters.
The participants are camping on an area of reclaimed land where temperatures are expected to reach 35C (95F) 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 on August 12.
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 standby.
‘Dream turning into nightmare’
Kristin Sayers, a parent from the US 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 organisers 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.
One Malaysian scout told a South Korean newspaper that the weather was even hotter than in his home country: “It was so hot that I got a migraine,” he said.
Local media reported that scouts from the United States, Britain, Belgium, Bangladesh, Colombia, Poland and Sweden were affected.
South Korea’s government has issued its highest possible heat warning as temperatures soar this summer, with 21 deaths from heat-related illnesses reported so far, Yonhap reported.
The conditions are challenging with a high humidity and temperatures exceeding 35, mosquitos not shying away, and partial flooding on site… it’s all hands on deck from the world scouting community to deliver an awesome Jamboree!
— 28th Glasgow Scout Group (@giffnockscouts) August 2, 2023