In the midst of an intense summer, South Korea is experiencing a rising number of heatwave-related fatalities. The death toll has surged to 23, marking a more than threefold increase from the figures reported last year. Authorities revealed that between May 20 and the end of July, 21 individuals succumbed to presumed heat-induced illnesses. Additionally, two fatalities were confirmed on Tuesday alone.
The severe heatwave, labelled as “serious” – the highest level in the government’s four-stage warning system – is impacting individuals throughout the nation. This marks the first time in four years that the heatwave warning has been elevated to this level. Fatalities include an elderly farmer who collapsed from heat exhaustion in Yeongcheon, 243 kilometers southeast of Seoul, and another in their 80s who passed away from high body temperature in Jeongeup, 217 km south of Seoul.
The extreme weather is also affecting ongoing events in the country. The 25th World Scout Jamboree, which is currently taking place in the Saemangeum Reclaimed Area on the Southwestern South Korean coast, reported 400 cases of heat-related illnesses among the participants. The jamboree is hosting around 43,000 young scouts from 158 countries across the globe.
The “serious” alert level is activated when daily high temperatures remain at 35 degrees Celsius or higher in numerous parts of the country for at least three consecutive days, or when daily temperatures hit 38 degrees Celsius or higher in certain regions for a minimum of three days. This heatwave is a stark reminder of the need for preventive measures and the potential impact of climate change on global weather patterns.