After heatwave, looming typhoon forces scouts to evacuate South Korea campsite
By Hyunsu Yim and Ju-min Park
SEOUL (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of youngsters will be evacuated from the campsite of the World Scout Jamboree in South Korea to get them out of the path of a looming typhoon, organisers said on Monday, days after hundreds fell ill amid soaring temperatures.
The storm on top of the country’s worst heatwave in years has piled pressure on organisers who have faced mounting complaints from parents and the withdrawal of the U.S. and British contingents.
The head of UK Scouts told Reuters on Monday concerns about cleanliness and food, not just the heat, had prompted their decision to leave first global gathering of scouts since the pandemic.
Around 36,000 participants will be taken by bus on Tuesday to areas away from the path of Typhoon Khanun, which has already wreaked havoc in southern Japan and is expected to hit South Korea on Thursday, organisers said.
Officials are seeking alternate venues and accommodation in and around Seoul, Kim Sung-ho, Vice Minister for Disaster and Safety Management, said in a statement.
The jamboree which is scheduled to run until Aug. 12 will continue, said gender quality minister Kim Hyun-sook, whose department is running the event.
“I can say that it is the location that is only changing because of the natural disaster, but it is still continuing,” Kim told reporters.
The governor of North Jeolla province, which is hosting the event, has apologised to the public for causing concern, and said sanitary conditions including toilets have been improving. Officials have sent in scores of water trucks and air conditioners to keep participants cool, he added.
The head of South Korea’s ruling People Power Party, Kim Gi-hyeon, also made a public apology on Monday, acknowledging that the event had not gone smoothly, and proposing an investigation into whether taxpayers’ money had been well spent on preparations for the jamboree.
More than 40,000 people, including scouts from 155 nations attended the event.
A K-pop concert due to be held at the campsite on Sunday was postponed to Friday, but the venue had yet to be decided because of the typhoon, minister Kim said.
(Reporting by Hyunsu Yim and Ju-min Park; Editing by Ed Davies, Robert Birsel, Miral Fahmy and Andrew Heavens)