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US and UK Scouts Pull Out of World Jamboree Campsite Due to Extreme Heat

Thousands of UK and US Scouts attending the World Scout Jamboree in South Korea are being removed from the official campsite in the south-western county of Buan amid a suffocating heatwave.

The event, which started this week, has drawn 43,000 young Scouts from 158 countries, with the UK contingent the largest at 4,500.

Hundreds of people have needed treatment for heat-related ailments in recent days. On Thursday, 138 people visited clinics and hospitals with heat-related illnesses, bringing the total to more than 700.

In a statement, UK Scouts said it would start moving young people and adult volunteers to hotel accommodation over the next two days. “As we are the largest contingent, our hope is that this helps alleviate the pressure on the site overall,” it said.

It added: “While we have been on site at the jamboree, 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.”

The US contingent will take part in the jamboree program on Saturday before moving to the US Army’s Garrison Humphreys near the jamboree site on the following day.

“The US contingent to the World Scout Jamboree has made the difficult decision that we will be departing the 25th World Scout Jamboree site early because of ongoing extreme weather and resulting conditions at the jamboree site,” an email sent out to parents by the US contingent media team read.

The US and UK’s withdrawal from the international event will be a big blow and a major source of embarrassment to the South Korean authorities, which have been working all out to limit the fallout and negative coverage generated in recent days.

South Korea has been eager in recent decades to establish prestige among advanced nations by hosting large-scale global events. Its government is keen to become the seventh nation to hold the trinity of global events, comprising the World Expo, the World Cup and Olympics. World Expo 2030, which is only months away from selecting a host country, is a national priority.

South Korea has pumped millions into improving conditions at the gathering, with the president, Yoon Suk Yeol, ordering “unlimited” air-conditioned buses and cold-water trucks and hundreds more sanitary and medical staff being brought in.

On Friday, following the UK announcement, the World Organization of the Scout Movement, the global scouting body, said it had requested South Korea “consider alternative options to wind down the event earlier than scheduled”. But it said organisers had “decided to proceed … with assurances that they will do their utmost to tackle the issues caused by the heatwave by adding significant additional resources”.

Most of those attending the jamboree, the first global gathering of the Scouts since the pandemic, are aged between 14 and 18.

South Korean authorities have issued the highest-level heat warning in four years, as temperatures in some parts of the country exceeded 38C (100F) this week. Temperatures of up to 34C are forecast at the site at the weekend.

Yoon called for the buses to be supplied so the Scouts could rest and cool down, and for the trucks to provide water, his press secretary, Kim Eun-hye, said in a statement on Friday. He also ordered officials to improve the quality of food being provided to people there.

“All government departments should make all-out efforts to immediately solve problems at the site,” Yoon was quoted by Kim as saying.

On Friday, Kim Hyun-sook, the gender equality and family minister in charge of the event, said 6.9bn won (£4.1m) had been allotted to secure equipment including additional shaded areas with the cooperation of the military, and supplies including cooling masks, hats, sun cream, and ice packs.

“We will make every effort to ensure stable operations with a responsible attitude so that this event can end safely,” she said.

Organisers have come under fire after numerous accounts of hospital bed shortages, waterlogged conditions caused by earlier heavy rains, rotten food, swarms of mosquitoes and flies, and poor sanitation.

At a press briefing on Thursday, Choi Chang-haeng, the secretary general of the event’s organising committee, suggested that overexcitement at the sight of K-pop acts on stage had caused the heat stress.

However, some parents expressed concerns about the conditions, and the UK’s Foreign Office is known to be closely monitoring the situation.

Source : The Guardian



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