This video shows a bushfire in Australia, not a forest fire in Pakistan

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on May 25, 2022 at 05:37
  • 3 min read
  • By Wasi MIRZA, AFP Pakistan
A video showing plumes of smoke rising from burning trees has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times in posts that claim it was filmed in a forest in Pakistan. Although a huge fire broke out in a large pine nut forest in Pakistan's southwestern province of Balochistan in May 2022, the video has been shared in a false context. The footage shows a bushfire in Australia in December 2019, when the country was ravaged by catastrophic blazes fuelled by climate change.

The video was posted here on Facebook on May 22 by Qasim Khan Suri, a member of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

The footage shows an aerial view of trees being engulfed in flames.

It has been viewed more than 106,000 times.

The post's Urdu-language caption translates to English as: "A fire has been raging for the past two weeks in the world’s biggest pine nut forests in Balochistan’s Sherani district.

"This jungle is the biggest source of sustenance for the people there.

"After their livelihoods, peoples’ lives are now in danger. The imported government has kept their eyes closed on this matter.”

The "imported government" refers to the administration of Pakistan's new Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who was sworn in after the ouster of his predecessor Imran Khan in April. 

Khan has insisted he was the victim of a "regime change" conspiracy involving the United States and his opponents.

Screenshot of the false post. Taken on May 24, 2022.

The video circulated after local media reported fires spreading in different parts of the Sulaiman range -- also known as Koh-e-Sulaiman -- that stretches across Pakistan's west and centre.

The video has since been viewed more than 300,000 times in posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok.

It was also shared by Pakistani politicians, including Zartaj Gul and Shafi Ullah from the recently ousted PTI party, and Mian Iftikhar Hussain from the Awami National Party (ANP).

Pakistani media outlets Dawn News and Bol News also used images from the video here and here.

However, the video has been shared in a false context.

Australian bushfires

A reverse image search found a video with similar scenes published here on January 3, 2020 by US-based broadcaster Voice of America (VOA).

"Aerial footage released Thursday, January 2, shows the breadth of the wildfires raging across a vast expanse of forest in Victoria, Australia earlier this week," the video's English-language description reads.

Below is a screenshot comparing footage from the false posts (left) with matching scenes from VOA (right).

Screenshot comparison. Taken on May 24, 2022.

The footage was credited to the Associated Press (AP) and "Glen Morey". 

A keyword search found the video posted here on Twitter by an account with the same name on January 2, 2020.

"This is the Wingan Fire just before we had to leave due to fading light on Sunday afternoon. It made it to the coast that night and now into Mallacoota," the English-language tweet reads.

A further keyword search on Google found Morey listed himself on LinkedIn as a pilot for Professional Helicopter Services (PHS), an aerial tourism company in Australia.

Morey told AFP: "I can confirm that I took the video footage. It was taken on the 29th December 2019 by myself while flying [by] the fires in eastern Victoria Australia."

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