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South Korea: Over 1,000 buses deployed to evacuate 37,000 scouts as typhoon nears

At least 37,000 global scouts are currently being evacuated from South Korea’s World Scout Jamboree as Typhoon Khanun continues to near the country. More than 1,000 vehicles have been pressed into service to escort 37,000 scouts, mostly teenagers from the coastal area to inland venues, according to news agency AFP.

The majority of the evacuees are been accommodated in Seoul and the capital’s metropolitan area. More than 270 police cars and four helicopters have been deployed to escort the buses that began departing the site at 9 am, local time, according to Lee Sang-min, South Korea’s Minister of the Interior and Safety. The evacuation is expected to take six hours or more.

“Local governments are checking the sanitation of the accommodation venues and restrooms and are preparing medical measures to ensure that the (Scouts) would be safe and comfortable after they arrive,” said Lee.

The event opened last week in Buan, a county on South Korea’s southwestern coast and was expected to be a celebration of South Korea’s rich cultural heritage but soon turned chaotic due to the news of the approaching storm.

According to Japan Meteorological Agency, the storm was currently centred 350 kilometres (217 miles) south of Kagoshima, a city on the southwestern tip of Japan’s main southern island of Kyushu. Khanun had winds of 108 kph (67 mph) with gusts to 144 kph (89 mph) and was moving slowly north.

Lawmaker urges BTS to intervene 

While the evacuation brings national embarrassment to the authorities, a South Korean lawmaker has urged K-pop group BTS to intervene. Lawmaker Sung Il-jong said South Korea’s military should grant leave passes to BTS members so that they can reunite and perform for the scouts, left stranded by the jamboree fiasco.

“For these precious guests, it is necessary to fill the lack of schedule… with the power of Korean culture,” said Sung on his Facebook page.

Sung, who is also part of the parliament’s national defence committee said the jamboree had “tarnished our country’s reputation due to inadequate preparation and poor management”.

On Monday, South Korea’s presidential office said that President Yoon Suk Yeol was informed about the contingency plan for the Jamboree in the wake of the typhoon approaching, hinting that the scouts are likely to stay in Seoul for the remainder of their stay.

“By ‘contingency plan’, it means the scouts’ accommodation and the remaining schedule can be moved to the metropolitan area including Seoul,” said Yoon’s office, in a statement.

(With inputs from agencies)