Canadians attending the World Scout Jamboree in South Korea will remain at the event site as thousands of British and American scouts have opted to leave due to a heat wave.
Hundreds of participants at the jamboree, located in Saemangeum, Jeollabuk-do, more than 200 kilometres southwest of the capital Seoul, have been treated for heat-related illness since the event began this week.
This includes nine Canadians, including four youth and five adults, Scouts Canada confirmed. All nine experienced heat stress and received medical assessments before returning to their campsites by Friday morning.
There are 235 youth and 143 volunteers attending the jamboree as part of the Canadian contingent, Scouts Canada says.
“While Scouts Canada youth and volunteers are facing challenges related to the heat, the situation and jamboree infrastructure has improved and the youth report a generally positive experience. As such, the Canadian Contingent will remain on site and continue to monitor the situation,” a Scouts Canada spokesperson said in a statement to CTVNews.ca on Saturday.
“We are in daily contact with the contingent, who is also maintaining close connections with participant parents, jamboree organizers, WOSM (World Organization of the Scout Movement) and the Canadian embassy to ensure youth and volunteer safety remains our top priority.”
A statement on the Scouts Canada website Saturday added, “Participants remain in good spirits.”
HOW HOT IS IT?
Temperatures ranged between 35 and 38 C on Friday, with South Korea raising its heat warning to the highest level for the first time in four years.
The country’s Ministry of the Interior and Safety has reported that at least 19 people have died from heat-related illness since May 20.
WHAT ARE ORGANIZERS DOING?
The South Korean government said 138 jamboree participants were treated for heat-related illness Thursday and at least 108 were treated following Wednesday’s opening ceremony — the government tied the latter to exhaustion from a K-pop performance.
South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo has promised additional safety measures, such as more medical staff, air-conditioned vehicles and shaded structures, while President Yoon Suk Yeol pledged an “unlimited supply” of air-conditioned buses and refrigerator trucks to provide chilled water.
Hundreds more workers will also help maintain the event’s reportedly unkempt bathrooms and showers, while organizers plan to hold additional cultural activities in other regions.
The Scouts Canada spokesperson said none of the Canadian participants to date have been hospitalized for, or are currently experiencing, heat-related illness and patrol units are “engaged on a daily basis and all have opted to remain at the jamboree.”
Medical facilities will have expanded hours, ambulances remain on standby to transport discharged patients to campsites, the number of water supply stations have increased and umbrellas, cooling towels and hats will be distributed to participants on Sunday, the spokesperson added.
WHAT ARE OTHER PARTICIPANTS DOING?
The World Organization of the Scout Movement on Friday asked South Korean organizers to consider ending the event early, as well as “to honour their commitments to mobilize additional financial and human resources, and to make the health and safety of the participants their top priority.”
The U.K. Scout Association has moved more than 4,000 British scouts into hotels, while hundreds of U.S. scouts will leave the site on Sunday and relocate to a U.S. military base near Seoul. The U.S. contingent includes about 1,100 people, although many American staff helping with the jamboree plan to stay.
Meanwhile, South Korean organizers said dozens of scouts from Singapore would also leave.
Global Affairs Canada spokesperson James Emmanuel Wanki said in an email Saturday that the department is aware of the situation at the jamboree and the related heat wave in Korea.
“Consular officials stand ready to provide consular assistance to Canadian citizens,” the statement said.
Canadians in need of emergency consular assistance are asked to either contact the Canadian Embassy to the Republic of Korea, located in Seoul, or Global Affairs Canada’s Emergency Watch and Response Centre.
With files from CTVNews.ca Writer Sissi De Flaviis and The Associated Press