As life limps back to normal in Kerala, social media is still swarming with videos of flood devastation. A Facebook user had posted a video, “Dangerous floods in Kerala” on August 23, 2018. It has been viewed more than 30 lakh times and the share count is massive. When last checked, it had been shared more than 87,000 times.

Dangerous flood in kerela

Posted by Dharmendra Thakur on Thursday, August 23, 2018

A Facebook page, SIKH ARMY(@AzadSpirit) has also shared the same video with the exact text. It has been viewed more than 19,000 times so far.

Called out by social media users

Many individual Facebook users were not convinced, and called out the video by commenting that it wasn’t representative of Kerala but Japan.

Japan, not Kerala

We did a YouTube search with the keywords, “Japan Tsunami” and found a video captioned, 2011 Japan Tsunami: Ishinomaki [stabilized with Deshaker]”. It was posted on April 30, 2012. Another YouTube search with the keywords, “Ishinomaki tsunami” led us to a video posted on October 25, 2011 by a verified account FNN311called Fuji News Network (FNN) which comprises of videos relating to the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011.

According to the details posted along with the video, Mr. Koichi Abe of Ishinomaki Gas Inc. recorded the footage from the rooftop of his office near Ishinomaki fishing port in Ishinomaki City of Japan. The video begins with the waves gushing in close to the road from off shore. It seems tranquil at first but then the flow strengthens, carrying floating wreckage as it approaches the building, instantly transforming into a rapid current.

At 2:41, the description states, “In a blink of time, the waves gain height and white-capped turbid waters reach close to the rooftop. Observing the unexpected critical situation far beyond imagination, tense voices can be heard all around. The recorder of the video and those around him climb higher to the rooftop exit’s roof, eager to reach higher ground even if the difference is rather insignificant.” At 3:11, the visuals in the FNN video matches with the 2D view of Ishinomaki Gas Inc. facing the cylindrical towers at the back.

At 3:29, one can see a mountain range hazily visible for a split second.

Although, the explanation in subtitles of the video posted by FNN leaves no margin for ambiguity, we have independently cross verified it using Google Maps. It may be noted that Ishinomaki Gas company later relocated their head office functions to another office as a measure of crisis management. Henceforth, all the structures around the office don’t match with the currently available map view.

Content posted by social media users during a catastrophe may help draw attention to the devastation and damage caused. However, it has been observed that there is a strong tendency to misrepresent such events through the use of unrelated images and/or videos. This tendency is not restricted to social media users. Recently, more than one media organisation relayed videos that had no relation to the deluge in Kerala. Users are advised to be circumspect with regard to such claims, no matter how credible they may seem.

About the Author

Jignesh is a writer and researcher at Alt News. He has a knack for visual investigation with a major interest in fact-checking videos and images. He has completed his Masters in Journalism from Gujarat University.