Old footage shared in false reports of 'waterspout' in northern India in 2022

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Facebook and Twitter posts viewed thousands of times in July and August 2022 purport to show footage of a waterspout, essentially a tornado on water, spotted on India's Ganges river in Uttar Pradesh. However, AFP found no official reports of such a phenomenon in that period. The video has circulated online since 2018 in reports about a waterspout in Maharashtra, more than 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) southwest of Uttar Pradesh.

The video was viewed more than 1,300 times in a Facebook post shared on August 1, 2022.

The footage appears to show a column of water being sucked up towards the sky.

The Hindi post reads: "Incredible sight of nature in Prayagraj. The water of the Ganges river suddenly started going upwards. Whoever saw it could not believe their eyes for a moment."

Prayagraj is the official name of Allahabad, a city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

The post adds: "We have only ever seen water falling downwards and science also confirms this. Newton's gravitational law is applied to everything on the Earth but what happened in Prayagraj has put a question mark over all the laws and theories."

A screenshot of the misleading post captured on August 6, 2022

A waterspout is essentially a tornado over water, according to Fox Weather. A waterspout becomes classed as a tornado if it moves onto land.

Tornadic waterspouts form during severe storms and develop downward, while fair weather waterspouts -- which are less dangerous -- occur during relatively calm weather and travel upwards from the surface of the water, the US National Weather Service explains.

The video was also shared alongside a similar claim on Facebook here, here and here; and on Twitter here and here.

However, the claim is false.

A reverse image search found a video compilation showing a similar scene posted on YouTube on June 10, 2018.

The Marathi-language video title reads: "Amazing view from Nazare Dam in Purandar Taluka." 

The Nazare Dam is located in Pune district in India's western Maharashtra state. Purandar township is a subdistrict of Pune.

Further keyword searches found a news report posted on YouTube by local media outlet Mumbai Tak on June 10, 2018.

The Hindi-language title reads: "A tornado was witnessed in Pune’s Purandar township."

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video in the false posts (left) and Mumbai Tak's video (right).

Screenshot comparison of the video in the false posts (L) and Mumbai Tak's video (R)

A witness interviewed by the news outlet -- whose name is not given -- can be heard saying in the video: "A rocket-like thing came from the sky and reached the water's surface. 

"It soon turned into a cyclone and started pulling up the water like a hose. We watched it for five minutes."

Mumbai Tak's report also features an interview with the head of Pune's Meteorology Department, Arvind Srivastava.

"You must have seen how cyclones pull up leaves and small stuff from the land. This is a similar but more intense version," he explains.

"The same way tornadoes pull things up from the land, it pulls water in an upward direction."

Srivastava said waterspouts had previously been reported in Pune.

Pankaj Khelkar, the journalist who reported on the incident, told AFP the footage was filmed at the  Nazare Dam in Maharashtra.

Similar photos of the waterspout in Pune were published by local media outlet, including here and here.

AFP found no official reports of a waterspout in Uttar Pradesh in July or August 2022.