Thousands of British scouts attending an annual gathering in South Korea are to be moved into hotels after scores of people were treated for heat-related illness during the country’s worst heatwave in four years.
Temperatures at the site in south-western Buan hit 34ºC this week, prompting about 600 people to seek help and the South Korean government to send water tankers, medics and provide air-conditioned spaces.
A perspiring Bear Grylls, the organisation's Chief Scout, urged youngsters to look after each other in a social media post featuring a clip of a speech he made to the gathering,
In comments in an Instagram post sharing a video of his speech, the celebrity explorer wrote: " Here is to all of you 50,000 scouts in Korea for the @worldscouting Jamboree … have an amazing time, make friends for life, learn skills for life and have experiences for life. #adventure #scouts #nevergiveup and remember: stay hydrated out here. It’s hot. Look out for each other please. You’ve got this!”
More than 4,000 scouts from the UK, the largest contingent attending the event, will be moved into hotels soon in an attempt to relieve pressure on the site.
A spokesman for the group told Sky News: “We will start moving our people to hotel accommodation over the next two days.
"As we [the UK] are the largest contingent, our hope is that this helps alleviate the pressure on the site overall."
The UK has sent consular officials to the site, according to a foreign office representative.
The event coincides with the highest heat warning by authorities in four years, a situation replicated in many parts of the world in recent weeks.
"The government will use its all resources to ensure that the jamboree can end safely amid the heatwave," Prime Minister Han Duck-soo told a special cabinet meeting called by the president to approve spending 6 billion won ($4.6 million) to support the jamboree.
About 39,000 participants, most of them scouts aged between 14 and 18, are at the event.
News agencies on the ground reported seeing several scouts being stretchered off to a treatment room as temperatures topped 34ºC in Saemangeum, the area of reclaimed land in Buan where they are camping.
Emergency services had earlier said most of those who fell ill because of the heat had mild symptoms.
With the heatwave forecast to last until next week, some activists and parents have questioned the viability of the jamboree, the first global gathering of scouts since the pandemic.
Organisers said they were modifying the schedule depending on the temperature, adding that the scouts remained resilient.
"Despite the heat and the difficulties and the challenges that they are facing, only 8 per cent reported that they were very unsatisfied with the experience so far," said Jacob Murray, the director for world events at the scouts.
"We are grateful to the Korean government and provincial government for providing additional resources."
The jamboree comes a few weeks after the government of President Yoon Suk Yeol was criticised for its handling of floods that killed more than 40 people. Some residents of Buan said the government should have been better prepared for the heat.
"This kind of extreme weather event will become commonplace – we must accept climate change is happening and deal with it," he said.
Earlier on Friday, Mr Yoon called for an unlimited supply of air-conditioned buses and water tankers to be sent to the jamboree. A day earlier, he ordered dozens of military doctors and nurses to go to the campsite to provide emergency care.
About 39,000 participants from 155 countries were attending the event as of Friday, according to officials. The event is scheduled to run until August 12.