A British parent has described the ‘hell’ of the World Scout Jamboree in South Korea, revealing how children fainted, had to face ‘huge mosquitoes’ and had snakes under their beds before the disastrous event was scrapped.
Olaf Clayton said his daughter Gabriela, 16, was ‘absolutely devastated’ when UK Scouts announced it was evacuating its 4,500 members on Friday but that the hygiene levels and blistering heat were getting worse as they left.
Gabriela had travelled from the family’s home in Madrid, Spain, with British Scouting Overseas to join the jamboree. Now, in the days after she and the Brits were pulled out, officials have called the whole event off due to an incoming typhoon.
The teenager, who even learned Korean phrases and studied its culture, had spent 18 months fundraising through bake sales, teaching English and working in catering while the 1st British Scouts Madrid ran events for her to save money to attend.
Her father Mr Clayton – like many others, including the head of UK Scouts – has blasted the experience faced by more than 40,000 children.
‘By the time they were leaving it was hell – kids were fainting waiting for the buses to arrive,’ he said. ‘There was no shade, all activities were cancelled and there were huge mosquitoes.
Parent Olaf Clayton (pictured) has described the ‘hell’ of the World Scout Jamboree in South Korea, revealing how children fainted while waiting for buses
Children were seen taking shelter on Friday as the blistering heatwave wreaked havoc at the jamboree
The heat was no doubt taking its toll on the children in South Korea. Here, scouts were seen lying down to rest at the campsite on Friday
UK Scouts announced it was evacuating its 4,500 members on Friday and Mr Clayton said that the hygiene levels and blistering heat was getting worse as they left. Pictured: Scouts cool off with water on Friday
‘Gabriela is quite a tough cookie but she said there were ‘funny things’ coming out of the ground. There was a snake under her bed – thankfully the Bangladeshi scouts knew just how to deal with snakes.’
He said he and his wife had had no problems about their daughter travelling to South Korea, a ‘massive scouting nation and a first world country known for its organisation’.
‘Gabriela will have war stories and learned a lot from it, so there are positives but not so much for South Korea and its reputation for hosting this kind of thing,’ he added.
It comes after Matt Hyde, the chief executive of UK Scouts, criticised the organisers behind a disastrous jamboree plagued by multiple issues.
Officials in the country are preparing to evacuate tens of thousands of teenagers from the coastal camp ahead of an incoming tropical storm.
The jamboree has already been marred by hot temperatures which forced many – including more than 4,000 British scouts – off the site and into hotels at the cost of £1million.
Mr Hyde said the group had been ‘let down by the organisers’ and described the huge camp in the south-western county of Buan as having dirty toilets and a general lack of hygiene, while one parent of a teenager at the event said his daughter found a snake under her bed.
Hundreds of participants have been treated for heat-related ailments since the jamboree started on Wednesday, with 2,500 falling sick with ailments including bug bites, skin rashes and heat exhaustion. There has also reportedly been an outbreak of Covid-19.
British scouts arrive at a hotel in Seoul on August 5, 2023, after leaving the World Scout Jamboree in Buan due to high temperatures
Tents are pitched at a scout camping site during the World Scout Jamboree. The campsite is now in the path of an incoming storm
An ambulance drives out of the campsite of the World Scout Jamboree, days after it started last week
Now, as Tropical Storm Khanun bears down on the camp, the World Organization of the Scout Movement said it will be evacuating all participants, bringing an end to the event.
That means using buses to move some 36,000 scouts – mostly teenagers – from 158 countries out of the storm’s path and to safer locations.
Khanun is expected to hit the country by Thursday morning, bringing winds of up to 95mph (153kph).
Large swathes of the country’s south, including Buan, could be affected by the storm as early as Wednesday, the agency said.
The storm has caused one death and 70 injuries on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, according to the country’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency.
Due to the forecast, Japanese rail bosses said ‘Shinkansen’ bullet train services could be suspended from Wednesday night to Thursday morning.
South Korea’s president Yoon Suk Yeol has called for ‘contingency’ plans, which could include relocating scouts to hotels in the capital, Seoul, and other cities.
Long before the event started, critics raised concerns about bringing such large numbers of young people to a vast, treeless area lacking protection from the summer heat.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Hyde said his organisation had brought their concerns to the event’s organisers, and described the dire conditions at the camp.
‘We are both disappointed and feel let down by the organisers because we repeatedly raised some of these concerns before we went.
‘We were promised things were going to be put in place.
‘If you can imagine, toilets that are being used by thousands and thousands of people are not being cleaned with the regularity you would expect, you can imagine the sort of things that people were seeing.
‘It wasn’t just that, it was actually the lack of soap as well, so again it’s the compounding impact of all these things together but like all of these things, when you’re put in a position where you have to make difficult decisions there are choices.’
He added: ‘We have at this point had to make the difficult choice of investing our money to ensure that young people are safe. That is the right thing to do and the board took that decision and stand by it 100 per cent and unanimously.’
No details have been given on where the participants will stay until they return home. However Choi Chang-haeng, secretary-general of the jamboree’s organising committee, said they have secured more than 340 evacuation venues, including community centres and gyms, in regions near Buan.
About 40,000 scouts, mostly teenagers, from 158 countries came to the Jamboree at a campsite built on land reclaimed from the sea.
About 4,500 were from the U.K., representing the largest national contingent, while 1,000 were from the United States.
Those from the UK and the US were moved into hotels over the weekend.
In a separate video posted to the Scout’s Instagram, Mr Hyde again hit out at the organisers, expressing his disappointment while praising the efforts of young scouts and the adult volunteers for continuing their ‘jamboree journey’ in Seoul.
He added: ‘The reason why we’ve taken [the decision to move] is because we were concerned about young people and adult volunteers’ safety.
‘The first [reason] is that we were particularly concerned about sanitation and the cleanliness of toilets that were causing severe concerns for us from a health and safety point of view. In addition to that, we were worried about food and those with dietary requirements in particular, and the amount of food that was available.
‘We were concerned also about the heat. It’s punishingly hot here in Korea, it’s an unprecedented heatwave, but we were concerned about the heat relief measures that were being put in place.
‘And finally, we were concerned about medical services. Those four areas gave us concerns about whether young people and our adult volunteers were safe and that’s why we’ve relocated our jamboree journey to here in Seoul.’
He added: ‘We are disappointed in the organisers and the organisation and we do feel let down.’
South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo (third-right) poses with Scouts yesterday
British scout members leave the World Scout Jamboree campsite in Buan
Gareth Weir, British deputy ambassador to South Korea, greets scout members of his country as they arrive from the World Scout Jamboree camp site to a hotel
US scout members prepare to leave the World Scout Jamboree campsite
Praising Seoul as a ‘remarkable city’, Mr Hyde continued: ‘Last night a local football team reached out, offered us 4,000 tickets for our participants to go and watch a game of football, and I am truly inspired by the response of our adult volunteers and our young people.
‘When I arrived upstairs in a hall yesterday as young people were arriving, it was so inspiring just to see their response. They were singing campfire songs, there was someone on the piano, they are a credit to scouting and a credit to the UK.’
MailOnline revealed over the weekend how volunteers have been left ‘incandescent at the lack of leadership’ amid the chaos at the jamboree.
Before news of the incoming storm, the World Organisation of the Scout Movement called for the event to be shelved and asked South Korean organisers to ‘consider alternative options to end the event earlier than scheduled’.
But the South Korean government conducted spot inspections on Saturday and found conditions were no longer as dire as has been claimed, prime minister Han Duck-soo said.
Former jamboree leaders and volunteers have blasted the UK contingent for preventing youngsters and leaders from exposing ‘the true scale of the mess’, while one parent said their child thought ‘they were going to die’ amid the blistering heat.
A volunteer, who wished to remain anonymous, told MailOnline: ‘I am absolutely incandescent with the lack of leadership at the very top.’
She added that the chaos was being masked by leaders – and several volunteers believe that ‘had the true position come to light earlier, the situation may have been much better’.
Scouts UK said it was ‘unaware’ of any form of censoring going on.
Temperatures hit 35C (95F) in Saemangeum, near the city of Buan on South Korea’s west coast, where 43,000 participants were camping as of Friday.
Flags are displayed at a viewing deck overlooking the campsite of the World Scout Jamboree
Other parts of South Korea have topped 38C (100.4F), forcing the government to issue the highest heat warning in four years.
Among those in attendance is adventurer Bear Grylls – the UK’s chief scout since 2009 – who was filmed dripping in sweat as he delivered a speech at the opening ceremony. He urged people to remain calm before the UK pulled members out.
Saturday saw thousands of British children, aged 14 to 17, packing their bags at the campsite. The first wave of children arrived at hotels in Seoul – where they were met by Gareth Weir – the British deputy ambassador to South Korea.
British scouts continued to evacuate to hotels across the weekend.
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