Video shows buildings demolished in China, not devastation from Turkey-Syria earthquake

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A Facebook post shared in Kenya claims to show footage of high-rise towers collapsing during the Turkey-Syria earthquake. However, the video is old and unrelated. While the 7.8-magnitude earthquake caused massive devastation, collapsing buildings and killing thousands of people, the video shows controlled demolitions in China.

A strong earthquake struck southeastern Turkey and neighbouring Syria in the early hours of February 6, 2023, devastating cities, killing more than 21,000 people and injuring thousands more, according to the latest official figures released on February 10.

A day after the earthquake, a Facebook post shared a TikTok video showing multiple clips of buildings collapsing simultaneously.

“Sending my deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of those killed, hurt, and affected by this natural calamity in Turkey & Syria (sic),” read the Facebook post, which has since been deleted.

The video, which was viewed more than 40,000 times, merged footage of buildings collapsing in two separate locations.

A screenshot of the false Facebook post, taken on February 8, 2023

The same video was shared on TikTok alongside the caption “Prayer for turkey tallest building dropped off (sic)”.

However, while many buildings in Turkey and Syria were damaged or destroyed, the video in the posts is old and does not show devastation from the earthquake.

Demolition job

Using the video verification tool InVID WeVerify, we conducted reverse image searches on keyframes from the footage and found news clips describing the demolition of high-rises in China.

In the opening part of the video, the first of a trio of buildings with a staggered design abruptly collapses, causing onlookers on the ground to flee.

A screenshot of the false Facebook post showing the first building, taken on February 8, 2023

A reverse image search revealed the clip was used in a 2022 Russian TV report about the demolition of unfinished buildings in China.

Follow-up searches using Chinese keywords unearthed local reports from 2020 (see here, here, and here) featuring photos and videos of the same distinctive buildings, taken from different angles.

A screenshot showing the similarities between the false video, left, and footage from a Chinese news site

According to the reports, the vacant buildings were demolished by the local authority on October 30, 2020, in southern China's Hainan province in the county of Lingao because they were illegally built.

The same buildings can also be seen in this post on the Chinese social media platform, Meipian, published by an account that issues official government statements. The post shows one of the buildings from the same angle as it appears in the Facebook post we are debunking.

A screenshot of a post on Meipian showing a similar video of the demolition, taken on February 10, 2023

Second demolition

The second part of the clip shows a collection of taller buildings – light in colour and all similarly designed – collapsing simultaneously, with one remaining barely upright. Next to them, there are four yellowish buildings standing tall alongside the ruins.

Screenshot of different clips within the video’s second scene

A reverse image search found that the American news site USA Today published footage of the same buildings collapsing but from a different angle.

“15 buildings in China get demolished simultaneously,” reads USA Today’s caption.

According to the report, the high-rises were demolished on August 27, 2021, in Kunming, southern China. They had been abandoned and damaged by rain.

Screenshots of footage from USA Today on the demolition of Chinese buildings in 2021

Several other international news outlets posted footage of the simultaneous demolitions (here and here).