A video of an earthquake is being circulated widely on social media as footage of the 7.6-magnitude quake that hit Papua New Guinea, an island nation in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, on September 11. The video shows people panicking and running while large cracks develop on the road as a result of the quake. People can also be heard praying in the background.

NDTV has used a still from the video as the Feature Image in its report of the Papua New Guinea tremors. (Archived link)

NDTV cited Reddit user ChrisM707 as a source. His post had garnered 2.8k upvotes. (Archived link)

The Hindustan Times tweeted a compilation of several videos of the incident. The first of these videos is the viral clip (Archived link). However, a text superimposed at the top of the video reads, “HT doesn’t vouch for the authenticity of the videos”.

The Weather Channel also used this video while reporting on the Papua New Guinea quake. (Archived link)

This video was also tweeted (archive) several times with claims that it was shot in Papua New Guinea. (Archived link)

Fact Check

Upon reverse image searching one of the key-frames of the video, Alt News was led to an Advanced Earth and Space Science blog post by Dave Petley dated October 15, 2018. Professor Petley is the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hull in the United Kingdom. His blog provides commentary and analysis of landslide events occurring worldwide. This particular post contained a geological analysis of the lateral spreading that had been witnessed in Sigi Biromaru, a suburb of Palu in Indonesia, during the Sulawesi earthquake in September 2018.

In the blog post, Professor Petley uses screengrabs from the footage that was shot in Sigi Biromaru, during the earthquake. The photographs used by him match the viral video.

On searching the keywords “Sigi Biromaru 2018” on YouTube, we found a longer version of the viral video uploaded on October 7, 2018.

In the video, two important stills confirm the fact that the video was indeed shot in Indonesia. At 1:56 in the video, a signboard consisting of an arrow pointing downwards, and the text ‘MASUK’ can be seen. ‘Masuk’ is the Indonesian word for ‘enter’. Moreover, at the 3:53-minute mark, a typical gas station signboard is visible with the text ‘PERTAMINA’. According to its website, Pertamina is the national energy company owned by the Government of Indonesia.

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Getty Images had also uploaded this video on their website. Provided to them by Dewan Dakwah Islamiyah, the video shows the moment a 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck Sulawesi Island, which triggered tsunamis in Donggala and Palu cities. The death toll stood at 2,045 at the time of the video getting uploaded.

Through a keyword search in Indonesian on Twitter with a time filter, Alt News found several posts about the aftermath of the 2018 earthquake on Sigi Biromaru. Out of them, we found some pictures and videos of the Pertamina gas station and its surrounding areas that had been wrecked in the earthquake. (1, 2, 3)

The number on the signboard could be retrieved in a clearer picture. The number read “74.943.18”.

While searching for the number on Google, Alt News was led to a Pertamina media file. The 10th page of the file contains an image of this particular gas station labelled with the subsequent number. Alongside this is an image of the shop opposite the gas station, which can be seen in the viral video as well.

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The image is titled ‘Kondisi SPBU Pertamina 74.943.18 di Kecamatan Sigi setelah diguncang gempa 7,4 SR.’ (Translation: Condition of Pertamina gas station 74,943.18 in Sigi District after being rocked by a 7.4 magnitude earthquake). The bottom of the page reads, ‘SPBU Pertamina di Kabupaten Sigi luluh lantak pasca bencana. SPBU tersebut tidak dapat beroperasi lagi karena permukaan tanah di sekitar SPBU terangkat karena dampak gempa dan likuifaksi’ (Translation: Pertamina gas station in Sigi Regency was destroyed after the disaster. The gas station can no longer operate because the ground level around the gas station has been raised in the impact of the earthquake and liquefaction).

According to a Wartakota report dated October 8, 2018, residents looted this gas station, which is located close to Palu-Palolo highway in Sigi as it was not guarded by authorities. The report further states that the condition of the gas station when the Tribune was at the location was also very worrying. The entire roof and support poles were slanted. The ground had cracked.

Interestingly, this video has been shared with misinformation in the past as well. The same video had been circulated and viewed tens of thousands of times on social media posts with the claim that it showed a magnitude 6.6 earthquake in Banten on January 14, 2022. AFP fact-checked this misleading claim. This video had also been shared after another earthquake hit Palu on October 9, 2018. The truth had been subsequently clarified.

Hence, it is evident an old video of the impact of the 2018 Sulawesi earthquake on the neighbouring areas of Sigi Borimaru in Indonesia is being falsely circulated with the claim that it is the footage of the recent earthquake in Papua New Guinea.

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About the Author

Student of Economics at Presidency University. Interested in misinformation.