Toddler dies after being left alone in minibus in scorching heat in South Korea

SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A four-year-old girl was found dead in a minibus on Tuesday (July 17) afternoon after being left inside alone for nearly seven hours in scorching heat, in Dongducheon, a city in South Korea's Gyeonggi province.

An elderly man in his 80s was also found dead at a farm on the same day in Namwon, South Jeolla province.

The two deaths were attributed to the unbearable heat in South Korea, bringing the heat-related death toll in the country to six this year.

The girl was reported to have gotten into the vehicle, owned and operated by the daycare centre she attended, on Tuesday morning, along with eight other children.

The vehicle arrived at the centre at about 9.40am (8.40am Singapore time), but the girl remained in the vehicle by herself after the eight other children left the vehicle.

Staff at the daycare centre only realised the victim was absent in the centre some seven hours later. Not knowing that she had remained alone in the school minibus, the staff called the child's mother to ask why her daughter did not show up that day.

It was when the mother told the staff that her daughter had left for the centre in the morning that authorities began to search and discovered her body in the vehicle at about 5pm.

Police are investigating the exact cause of the accident, including why the daycare staff did not realise the child's absence until late afternoon.

 
 
 

An online petition has been organised by citizens, asking the Presidential Office to bring stronger measures to prevent similar accidents in future, and to make it mandatory for all daycare centres to send text messages to the parents to inform them of the arrival of their children at the centre.

From January to July 16, a total of 633 Koreans have been treated for heat-related illnesses, such as heatstroke, and six deaths have been attributed to heat.

Health authorities have confirmed that 83.3 per cent of the victims were those in their 70s and 80s.

The Ministry of Labour issued a statement on Wednesday that all employers with workers who are employed outdoors must provide access to clean water, shade and breaks while a heat alert is on. Those who do not comply may face up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 50 million won (S$60,300), the ministry added.

The sweltering heat is forecast to continue nationwide on Thursday (July 19) as temperatures hover between 31 to 37 degree Celsius.

Heat wave warnings by the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) also remain in effect throughout the country.

Capital city Seoul will experience a maximum temperature of 34 deg C, Daegu deg 37 C, Gwangju 36 deg C and Busan 33 deg C.

The KMA added that the hot weather will continue for at least a week.