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Footage of 2011 Japan tsunami misrepresented as Taiwan earthquake

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A video spreading across TikTok and other platforms claims to show tsunami waves barreling through Taiwan after a 7.4-magnitude earthquake rocked the island on April 3, 2024. This is false; the clip depicts a tsunami that hit Japan in 2011.

“Tsunami in Taiwan on the morning of April 3, 2024,” says text over the video, which racked up more than 235,000 views on TikTok.

<span>Screenshot from TikTok taken April 3, 2024</span>

Screenshot from TikTok taken April 3, 2024

Users reposted the same clip across TikTok, including in Spanish. It also spread in multiple languages on other platforms such as X, where disinformation has accelerated since billionaire Elon Musk’s 2022 takeover.

Tsunami hits Taiwan following a 7.5 magnitude earthquake that devastated parts of the nation,” said one now-deleted post on the site.

<span>Screenshot from X taken April 3, 2024</span>

Screenshot from X taken April 3, 2024

At least nine people were killed and more than 1,000 injured after the quake — the strongest to hit Taiwan in decades.

The temblor prompted tsunami warnings that extended to Japan and the Philippines. But they were soon lifted, with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center saying the threat had “largely passed.”

The video spreading on TikTok does not show the Taiwan quake’s aftermath — it predates the disaster by more than 10 years.

Reverse image and keyword searches uncovered the same footage flipped horizontally and shared online as early as March 2011, when a devastating tsunami hit Japan (archived here).

The March 11, 2011 tsunami was triggered by a massive earthquake off the coast, which produced waves that tossed ships inland, sent water barreling over sea walls and caused the release of radioactive contaminants from a nuclear power plant. It left more than 18,500 people dead or missing.

The YouTube user who shared the earliest version of the footage AFP could find said in a Japanese-language caption that they captured it from a parking lot atop an Aeon store in Tagajo City, Japan. They said a security guard led them there as the waves approached.

AFP independently verified the location by matching the parking lots, ramp and satellite poles in the footage to those captured on Google Earth and in Google Maps Street View imagery from August 2011 (archived here and here).

<span>Screenshots from YouTube taken April 3, 2024, with elements outlined by AFP</span>

Screenshots from YouTube taken April 3, 2024, with elements outlined by AFP

<span>Screenshot from Google Maps Street View taken April 3, 2024, with elements outlined by AFP</span>

Screenshot from Google Maps Street View taken April 3, 2024, with elements outlined by AFP

<span>Screenshots from YouTube taken April 3, 2024, with elements outlined by AFP</span>

Screenshots from YouTube taken April 3, 2024, with elements outlined by AFP

<span>Screenshot from Google Earth taken April 3, 2024, with elements outlined by AFP</span>

Screenshot from Google Earth taken April 3, 2024, with elements outlined by AFP

AFP has debunked other misinformation about the Taiwan quake here and posts misrepresenting footage of the Japan tsunami here and here.

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