Video of high surf at US beach falsely shared as 'tsunami after Turkey-Syria earthquake'

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A video of strong waves hitting a beach has been viewed tens of thousands of times in social media posts that falsely claim it shows a tsunami hitting the Syrian coast following a devastating earthquake that shook the war-torn country and neighbouring Turkey in February 2023. The clip has in fact been shared online as early as January and shows high surf at Mission Beach in the US city of San Diego.

"Strong earthquake, Syrian coast sees tsunami," reads a simplified-Chinese Weibo post on February 7, 2023.

The post includes a hashtag that translates as: "Turkey earthquake has caused 771 deaths in neighbouring Syria."

The accompanying five-second clip appears to show waves crashing over a sea wall and lapping at nearby buildings.

The video was published by a user with more than 283,000 followers and has more than 1,000 views.

Screenshot of the Weibo post, taken on February 9, 2023

The posts were shared after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and Syria on February 6, 2023 and rescuers scrambled to pull people from thousands of flattened buildings.

The death toll has topped 21,000 as of February 10, with aid efforts hampered by the bitter cold, AFP reported. Officials and medics said 18,342 people had died in Turkey and 3,377 in Syria.

The clip has been viewed tens of thousands of times after it was shared with a similar false claim across social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, and Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok.

However, the video is unrelated to the earthquake -- it was shared online at least since January 2023 and shows high surf after a storm at a US beach.

San Diego high surf

A Google reverse image search found this Twitter post by Fox News reporter Jamie Little on January 7.

The post includes a longer version of the same video, and a person can be heard exclaiming in English as water floods a patio.

"Anybody familiar with San Diego….this is the boardwalk in Mission Beach. Storm is no joke! Lived there many years, never saw anything like this," Little wrote on Twitter.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video in the false posts (left) and the video shared by Little (right):

Screenshot comparison of the video in the false posts (left) and the video shared by Little (right)

San Diego is a city in California state, in the western United States.

The region was hit by a winter storm on January 6, which brought towering waves to the San Diego coast, including at Mission Beach. Lifeguards had prepared for flooding along the boardwalk as the high surf crashed into jetties, local TV station NBC San Diego reported.

The area of Mission Beach where the clip was filmed can be seen on Google Street View here.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the Twitter video posted by Little (left) and the Google street imagery (right), with similarities marked by AFP:

Screenshot comparison of the Twitter video posted by Little (left) and the Google street imagery (right)

The Arabic fact-checking organisation Fatabyyano also debunked similar claims the clip shows a tsunami hitting the Turkey-Syria coast here.

Italian authorities issued a tsunami warning following the quake, but withdrew it after about three hours. There were no official reports of a tsunami hitting either Turkey or Syria.

AFP has debunked other out-of-context photos and videos shared following the Turkey-Syria quake here, here, here and here.