On March 24, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown in India for the next three weeks, not extending to essential supplies. This is in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Don’t believe in rumours and superstitions; don’t take any medicines without consulting doctors: PM
— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) March 24, 2020
On March 25, India TV editor-in-chief and chairman Rajat Sharma tweeted images of hospital beds and patients in the open and claimed that Italy has run out of space in hospitals for COVID-19 patients. “Learn from Italy. No more spaces are available in hospitals. Please do not step out of your homes for next 21 days. #CoronavirusLockdown,” he wrote. The tweet had amassed 6,200 retweets before it was deleted. However, a cached and an archived version are accessible.
Alt News has received several requests on its official WhatsApp number to fact-check the images circulating with the same claim.
With a reverse image search on Google, Alt News found that the photographs are from Croatia, NOT Italy as claimed Rajat Sharma. Twitter user Angjelina posted the same set of images on March 22 with a message informing about an earthquake of 5.4 magnitudes in Croatia’s capital Zagreb. At least three of the four images tweeted by Rajat Sharam as Italy were uploaded by Angjelina showing the devastation of a medical facility in Croatia due to tremors. Croatia and neighbouring countries were indeed rocked by a powerful earthquake on March 22.
In the course of this article, we will try to trace each of the images to the earliest source possible and in some cases, independently verify them. The Croatian capital of Zagreb was worst hit by the earthquake in 140 years. The footage posted below shows evacuation on the day of the tremors (i.e March 22) at the Zagreb’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. It may be noted that the photos of mothers being evacuated from the hospital also appeared on March 22.
— Marina Ivanisevic (@MarinaIvanisev3) March 22, 2020
This image shows mothers with newborn babies evacuated from a maternity ward in Zagreb. It was also published by Australia’s ABC News in an article reporting on the Croatian earthquake.
Petrova bolnica rodilište pic.twitter.com/GALjpbCQHF
— kmario (@kmario) March 22, 2020
To independently verify the location, we matched the structures seen in this image with those available on Google Earth view. The comparison (posted below) establishes that the photo was shot at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In the comparison posted below, the buildings are enlisted as follow:
- A booth near the gate
- An adjacent building painted white at front and grey over the top.
- A brick-coloured building behind the second structure outside the compound of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Moreover, a video report by Croatian daily 24Sata also features the evacuation scenes at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology department.
The location of this image is also outside the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The structures seen here are the same as those visible in the first image. You can watch a seven minutes footage where people are evacuating incubators of newborn babies here.
This image of mothers sitting outside the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology was corroborated with the design of the building in the background. In the comparison below, we have compared the image with a photograph of the same department building available on Google. In the comparison below, we have listed the structures are as follow:
- A different window before the balcony
- A brick railing enclosing another balcony
The image of gurneys shifted out in the open was tweeted by Mirnes Kovac, a Bosnia-based journalist, on March 22, 2020. He wrote, “Heartbreaking photos of mothers with their newborns :baby: waiting outside in the cold during the #earthquake this morning in #Zagreb #Croatia.”
We also found a collage which included this image shared by a Twitter user. As evident, the image viral on social media has been cropped. With a double reverse image search, Alt News found that the image was published in an article by 24Sata. The article said, “Among those most severely affected are KBC Rebro as well as Petrova Hospital. Patients, like staff, are on the streets”. We also found a screenshot of an Instagram post that identified the location of the image as KBC Rebro, Zagreb.
The fifth image of gurneys placed outside a building is also from a hospital in Zagreb. Journalist Ian Fraser posted this image while tweeting an article by Virsak.info. He said that the earthquake will put even more pressure on their hospitals.
— Ian Fraser (@Ian_Fraser) March 24, 2020
According to the COVID-19 real-time dashboard by John Hopkins University, the total number of positive coronavirus cases in Croatia has touched 481 so far.
In conclusion, all the four images which were tweeted by India’s TV editor-in-chief were from Zagreb, Croatia and depicted the aftermath of the March 22 earthquake. Furthermore, the other image was also found to be from Croatia. None of the images depicts the poor state of coronavirus patients in Italy. While Sharma took down his tweet, the images are circulating with false claims on WhatsApp.
Note: With the number of positive cases of the novel coronavirus in India exceeding 700 and hundreds of districts in the country in complete lockdown, there is a growing sense of fear among citizens at large. Globally, more than 4 lakh confirmed cases and close to 15,000 deaths have been reported. This has caused people to fall for a variety of misinformation floating online – misleading images and videos rousing fear or medical misinformation promoting pseudoscience and invalid treatments. While your intentions may be pure, misinformation, spread especially during a global pandemic, can take lives. We request our readers to practice caution and not forward unverified messages on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.