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European scouts to flee South Korean world jamboree ahead of typhoon

Participants at this year’s World Scout Jamboree in South Korea
Participants at this year’s World Scout Jamboree in South Korea Copyright Choe Young-soo/Yonhap
Copyright Choe Young-soo/Yonhap
By Euronews with AFP
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Young people from some 160 countries had tired faces and more than 600 had to be treated for the searing heat.

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First the heatwave and then the threat of a typhoon have made the international Scout meeting a real test of survival.

South Korea, where the event was taking place, is preparing to evacuate tens of thousands of scouts from a coastal jamboree as Tropical Storm Khanun looms.

Thousands of participants had already fled because of the heat and poor organisation.

Young people from more than 158 countries wore tired faces and more than 600 had to be treated amid the sizzling heat, causing many to give up.

Kim-yeol/AP
Attendees of the World Scout Jamboree cool off with water at a scout camping site in Buan, South KoreaKim-yeol/AP

Around 43,000 people from all over the world joined the giant scout jamboree at the end of July in Saemangeum, on the west coast of South Korea. The festival, organised every four years, which was due to end on 12 August, will now be cut short.

"Due to the expected impact of Typhoon Khanun, an early departure will be scheduled for all participants", the World Organisation of the Scout Movement announced in a statement on Monday, calling on the authorities to help repatriate the tens of thousands of children and teenagers taking part in the festival.

"We urge the government to speed up the departure plan and to provide all the necessary resources and support for participants during their stay and until they return to their home countries", it added.

Some countries, among them the UK, had already relocated their scouts due to "high temperatures and poor sanitary conditions" at the camp.

UK Scouts chief executive Matt Hyde told the BBC he felt let down by organisers.

In contrast, the Spanish Scout organisation tweeted that, despite the heat, the activities young people were doing made the experience worthwhile.

However, Geir Olav Kaase, leader of the 700-member Norwegian contingent, said to AP that Norwegian scouts had already started leaving the campsite on Monday evening to “avoid any chaos that may arise in the event of a joint evacuation.”

Kasse said the evacuations were proceeding in “close cooperation” with the Danish contingent, but he did not specify whether the Danes have started to leave too.

”We do all we can to ensure that the scouts are safe and well, and that the transfer goes as smoothly as possible. We help each other and keep our spirits up,” Kaase said in a statement.

The Swedish news agency TT said some 1,500 scouts from Sweden will be relocated to Camp Humphreys along with Norwegian and Danish scouts.

According to South Korea's Yonhap news agency, all activities scheduled for Monday afternoon have been cancelled and participants will begin leaving the camp on Tuesday morning.

The powerful typhoon Khanun, which killed at least one person in the Japanese archipelago of Okinawa last week, is expected to reach South Korea on Thursday, according to the weather services.

A real survival test

The event that promised to be an adventure turned into a nightmare.

Thousands of participants, including 4,000 British and 1,500 Americans, had already left the venue due to extreme heat and poor organisation.

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The British withdrew to Seoul, while the Americans were welcomed by their country's army at its base in Pyeongtaek, south of the capital.

The Singapore Scouts also decided to leave the site earlier than planned.

The Korean peninsula is currently experiencing a humid heatwave, with daily temperatures of between 35 and 38 degrees, prompting a maximum heatwave alert.

Kim-yeol/AP
Attendees of the World Scout Jamboree lie down to rest at a scout camping site in Buan, South KoreaKim-yeol/AP

In recent days, local media has described the situation as a "national disgrace", given the time the country has had to prepare for this gigantic summer gathering.

The South Korean government had to dispatch military doctors and nurses, as well as air-conditioned buses and refrigerated lorries loaded with ice-cold water.

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Besides problems caused by the heat, local media reported poor camping conditions, with "far from ideal" sanitary facilities including rudimentary showers and toilets. Not to mention the numerous insect bites.

Making matters worse regional authorities reported on Saturday 70 participants were infected with COVID.

In a last-ditch attempt to end the event on a positive note, Kim Hyun-sook, South Korea’s minister of gender equality and family, said officials are trying to arrange new cultural events and activities for the scouts before they leave.

This could include a possible K-pop concert at a Seoul soccer stadium on Friday to go with the closing ceremony.

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