Posts misrepresent Kazakhstan rocket video after Turkey earthquake

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Social media users are claiming a video shows a mysterious aerial phenomenon in Turkey shortly before the February 6, 2023 earthquake. This is false; the clip was filmed in Kazakhstan and appears to show a rocket launch in 2022.

"Before Turkey Earthquake," says text over the video, which originated on TikTok before spreading across Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.

The footage shows a bright object flying through the sky, leaving a jellyfish-like pattern in its wake as onlookers cheer the sight.

Screenshot from TikTok taken February 10, 2023

The same clip also appeared in posts from countries such as Canada, as well as languages including Spanish and Portuguese. Some social media users speculated that the footage showed an effort to provoke a natural disaster.

The posts spread in the aftermath of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria, wiping out buildings and killing more than 20,000 people as of February 9.

But the video is not recent -- nor was it filmed in Turkey.

Video predates earthquake

Reverse image searches conducted using keyframes from the video reveal the same footage appeared on TikTok in January 2023, Twitter in October 2022 and the messaging app Telegram on September 25, 2022.

The tweet says the video shows Baikonur Cosmodrome, a spaceport in Kazakhstan used by Russia. The Telegram post suggests it was taken in Balkhash, Kazakhstan -- a few hundred miles east of Baikonur Cosmodrome.

AFP was unable to independently verify the origin of the video. But press releases from NASA and reporting from Kazinform, a Kazakhstan news agency, indicate a Russian Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft left Baikonur Cosmodrome for the International Space Station on September 21, 2022. The rocket took off at 1454 GMT, carrying one NASA astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts.

The Kazinform report and an article from another Kazakhstan news agency feature recordings and photographs of the rocket that depict a jellyfish-like trail similar to the one shown in the video shared online.

Filmed in Kazakhstan

By searching for Balkhash on Google Maps Street View, AFP found images of the city that show buildings, streetlights, railings and other structures resembling those in the clip circulating on social media.

The photos suggest the footage was taken from the street Ulitsa Abaya, near the Magauia Khamzin Palace of Culture of Metallurgists.

Screenshots from TikTok taken February 10, 2023, with elements outlined by AFP
Screenshots from Google Maps Street View taken February 10, 2023, with elements outlined by AFP



AFP has debunked other misrepresented visuals shared after the earthquake in Turkey here, here and here.