Striking video and reports are emerging about Hurricane Irma catastrophically hitting the Americas – but don’t believe everything you see.
As with Storm Harvey in Texas last week, fake news, videos and doctored images about Irma have spread rumours about the scale and path of the hurricane – which meteorologists have been keen to warn against online.
Irma, which is the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade, has devastated parts of the Caribbean with wind speeds of 285km/h (180mph), leaving at least 10 people dead and reducing buildings to rubble.
One popular video posted on Thursday morning appears to show the force of hurricane winds hitting Puerto Rico, in the Caribbean, accompanied by howling winds which sound like a train engine. It was retweeted over 3,000 times.
But Irma did not hit Puerto Rico directly, instead the hurricane passed by the island causing power cuts.
Matching footage, which appears to be from the British Virgin Islands was posted on Wednesday, seven hours ahead of the video labelled Puerto Rico.
However, this footage was posted on Twitter without sound. It was picked up by a Turkish meteorological site and later by video uploading platform LiveLeak.com, as well as other social media users, who described the scene as San Juan, Puerto Rico. At some point along the way, the soundtrack was added.
The result was confusion among Twitter users, some of whom accused @Whippodilly of “fake news” – while others asked about the video from Wednesday night, which they had seen labelled as Puerto Rico.
Another video, with almost 8,000 likes and retweeted more than 9,000 times, was also shared on Wednesday night by American weather reporter Jamie Erle, but matches footage which is over a year old and likely to be from Tornado Dolores in Uruguay, Craig Silverman of BuzzFeed tracked the spread of the video.
The video – with the caption ‘Hurricane Irma’ – has been viewed almost 28 million times on Facebook. It was later tweeted with the claim it was taken in Barbados.
Another video, with more than half a million views, claims to show the hurricane passing over Barbuda but – as Twitter user @PicPedant. pointed out – the same YouTube account posted the same footage the day before, claiming it to be from the Virgin Islands, although a voice on the video claims it to be from “Tropical Storm Gonzalo,” a hurricane which hit Bermuda in 2014.
Meanwhile, a Facebook Live purporting to show passengers trapped in an over-turned bus during Irma gained millions of views, only for the footage to match clips from Cyclone Vardha, which struck Chennai, India in 2016.
Not ‘Category 6’
Reports regarding the strength of Irma and its path across the Atlantic have generated thousands of reactions online, as well as caused concern by residents who were led to believe they live in the storm’s trajectory.
An article titled “Category 6? If Hurricane Irma Becomes The Strongest Hurricane In History, It Could Wipe Entire Cities Off The Map” published last week on the blog The Economic Collapse was shared more than two million times from blogs and Facebook pages such as Sons of Liberty Media and Freedom Outpost.
Although the article did not categorically state that the hurricane had been classified as ‘Category 6′, it implied there was serious scientific suggestion it should be, and some on Twitter understood it to be.
On Wednesday, the claim Irma was a category six storm was repeated by InfoWars’ Alex Jones.