South Korea on Tuesday started evacuating thousands of participants at the World Scout Jamboree from a campsite in the south-west to safer areas, mainly around the capital Seoul, as Typhoon Khanun approaches.
The evacuation is the latest blow to the 10-day jamboree, coming after hundreds of scouts taking part fell ill due to a heatwave. The British scouts, about 4,500, were moved to hotels in Seoul on Friday while scouts from the US, numbering about 1,000, were moved to Camp Humphreys, an American military base 70 kilometres south of the capital, on Sunday.
Typhoon Khanun, which has already wreaked havoc in southern Japan, is expected to hit southern areas of South Korea on Thursday before moving up the peninsula, bringing strong winds and rain from Wednesday to Friday.
The storm was centred 350km south of Kagoshima, a city on the south-western tip of Japan’s main southern island of Kyushu, on Tuesday morning. Khanun had winds of 108 kph, with gusts up to 144 kph, and was moving slowly north, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
South Korea’s Safety Ministry has instructed local officials to prepare to shut down coastal areas, hiking trails, river parks, underpasses and other places vulnerable to flooding.
At the sprawling campsite in Buan county where the jamboree was taking place, scouts from more than 150 countries were dismantling tents and packing their belongings and boarding buses.
More than 1,000 buses were being used to move the 36,000 scouts from the campsite, officials said.
The bus convoys will be escorted by police helicopters and patrol cars, Interior Minister Lee Sang-min told a briefing. Seoul and its surrounding province of Gyeonggi will host more than 16,000 scouts, with others being evacuated to six other areas of the country, he said.
“Each local government will check the cleanliness of the accommodation and toilets,” he said.
“This is the first time in more than a hundred years of World Scout Jamborees that we have had to face such compounded challenges,” Ahmad Alhendawi, secretary general of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement, said.
On Monday, President Yoon Suk Yeol ordered an emergency response team to implement the latest plans without delay.
Poland is due to host the next World Scout Jamboree in 2027, but President Andrzej Duda cancelled plans to visit the event in South Korea this week because of the typhoon, an official at the Polish embassy in Seoul said.
The ill-fated jamboree has marred South Korea's successful track record hosting major events, including the summer and winter Olympic Games and jointly hosting the Fifa World Cup with Japan in 2002. The port city of Busan is currently bidding to host the World Expo in 2030.
The jamboree is scheduled to run until August 12, and the South Korean government has insisted it will continue with alternative programmes and a K-pop show.