4-year-old girl dies after being left alone in minibus in South Korea's scorching heat

4-year-old girl dies after being left alone in minibus in South Korea's scorching heat
PHOTO: AFP file

Two additional deaths were attributed to the heat in South Korea as of Wednesday morning, bringing the heat-related death toll in the country to six this year.

A 4-year-old girl was found dead in a minibus on Tuesday afternoon after being left inside alone for nearly seven hours in scorching heat, in Dongducheon, Gyeonggi Province. An elderly man in his 80s was also found dead at a farm on the same day in Namwon, South Jeolla Province.

Daytime highs reached 35 degrees Celsius in most provinces on Tuesday, with heat warnings issued nationwide by the Korea Meteorological Administration. The same has been forecast for Wednesday.

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 kids.

The vehicle arrived at the centre at about 9:40 a.m., but the girl remained in the vehicle by herself after the eight other children left the vehicle. The reason for this is not yet known.

The daycare staff 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 didn't show up that day.

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

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 day care 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 Labor issued a statement Wednesday morning 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 don't comply may face up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 50 million won ($44,000), the ministry added.

The Korea Meteorological Administration said the hot weather will continue for at least a week.

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