World Scout Jamboree Just Got More Disastrous

After hundreds were sickened by intense heat, 36K kids will be evacuated ahead of a tropical storm
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 7, 2023 10:54 AM CDT
World Scout Jamboree Just Got More Disastrous
Attendees of the World Scout Jamboree prepare to leave a campsite in Buan, South Korea, on Monday.   (Na Bo-bae/Yonhap via AP)

South Korea will evacuate tens of thousands of scouts by bus from a coastal jamboree site as Tropical Storm Khanun looms, officials said Monday. As the AP reports, more than 1,000 vehicles will be used starting Tuesday morning to move 36,000 scouts—mostly teenagers—from the World Scout Jamboree in the southwestern county of Buan, according to Kim Sung-ho, a vice minister at South Korea's Ministry of the Interior and Safety. Most of the scouts, who come from 158 countries, will be accommodated at venues in the capital city, Seoul, and the nearby metropolitan area, he said. Officials were trying to secure spaces at government training centers and educational facilities, as well as hotels. Kim said it would take six hours or more to evacuate the scouts from the campsite, which organizers said will no longer be used for any event after they leave.

Officials at Camp Humphreys, a major US military base near Seoul, didn't immediately confirm reports that thousands of scouts from Sweden, Norway, and Denmark were to be transferred to its facilities. The base is already accommodating hundreds of American Scouts, moved over the weekend due to heat concerns as South Korea grapples with one of its hottest summers in years. The announcement came after the World Organization of the Scout Movement said it called on the South to quickly move the scouts from the storm's path and "provide all necessary resources and support for participants during their stay and until they return to their home countries." South Korea's government didn't immediately specify any venues where the scouts will be staying. David Venn, the WOSM's global director of communications, said it was still waiting for government officials to provide detailed plans.

An official from Gyeonggi province said they were working to secure accommodations based on the potential relocation of around 15,000 scouts to the region. The possible venues include the Korea International Exhibition Center, a major convention facility in Goyang. South Korea's weather agency reported that Khanun was expected to make landfall in South Korea on Thursday morning, packing winds as strong as 73mph to 95mph. The plans to evacuate the scouts were announced hours after President Yoon Suk Yeol's office said he called for "contingency" plans, including relocating them to hotels and other facilities in the greater capital area. The South Korean safety ministry said the storm will unleash strong winds and rain from Wednesday to Friday and instructed local officials to prepare to shut down coastal areas, hiking trails, and other sectors vulnerable to flooding.

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Hot temps already forced thousands of British and American scouts to leave the site, which is on land reclaimed from the sea. Hundreds had been treated for heat-related ailments since the jamboree started Wednesday. Long before the event, critics raised concerns about bringing such large numbers of young people to a vast, treeless area lacking protection from summer heat. Kim Hyunsook, South Korea's minister of gender equality and family, said officials are trying to arrange new events and activities for the scouts before they leave, including a possible K-pop concert at a Seoul soccer stadium to go with the closing ceremony. "We don't see it that way," Kim said when asked whether the scouts' departure is an early end for the jamboree. "We are creating new programs ... away from the campsite, so it could be said the jamboree is widening." About 40,000 scouts came to the jamboree.

(More Scouts BSA stories.)

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