Video shows flooding caused by Japan's 2011 tsunami, not Cyclone Freddy in Africa

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A video of a sea surge washing away cars and buildings has been shared on social media alongside a claim that it shows Cyclone Freddy making landfall in Africa. But the claim is false: the footage is more than a decade old and is unrelated to the recent cyclone in Madagascar. It shows the 2011 tsunami that hit Japan, which was caused by a high-magnitude earthquake.

“Tropical cyclone Freddy…(sic),” reads a Facebook post with a video published in Botswana on February 27, 2023.

The footage shows surging water washing away cars, buildings and electricity poles.

Screenshot showing the false post, taken on March 9, 2023

Similar posts can be found on Tiktok and elsewhere on Facebook (here, here and here).

Freddy struck Madagascar and Mozambique in late February 2023. The storm hit Madagascar for a second time on March 6.

At least 15 people in Madagascar have died as a result of the cyclone. Authorities said more than 40,000 people in the country were affected, with 14,000 displaced since the storm returned to the island nation.

The UN said that Cyclone Freddy, which got its start in Australia in early February, is set to become the longest-lasting tropical cyclone on record.

Graphic showing the forecast path of Cyclone Freddy in February ( AFP)

But the video shared above does not show the destruction caused by Cyclone Freddy in Africa.

2011 tsunami

Using the InVID-WeVerify video verification tool, AFP Fact Check tracked down the original footage published in 2011.

A side-by-side comparison of the video published on Facebook, left, and footage of the Japan tsunami in 2011

The video was recorded during the March 2011 tsunami that struck Japan. Both videos show the same buildings, cars, trees and coastline being submerged.

The tsunami was prompted by a 9.1-magnitude earthquake that hit the coast of Honshu, the country's largest island.

More than 15,000 people were killed with another 2,500 reported missing and presumed to have died.