Old footage falsely linked to pilgrim bus crash in Saudi Arabia

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Footage of a vehicle engulfed in flames has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times in social media posts that falsely link it to a deadly bus crash in Saudi Arabia in March 2023. The video has in fact circulated online for years in reports about a fatal accident on the same road in Saudi Arabia six years earlier.

"Accident involving a bus full of passengers on their way to perform an umrah pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia," reads a Hindi-language Facebook post shared on March 28.

The umrah is a pilgrimage that can be undertaken at any time -- distinct from the hajj, which takes place once annually and usually draws millions from around the globe.

The post continues: "According to the news, 22 people were burned alive in the accident, which was caused by a brake failure. More than 30 people have been injured. #SaudiArabia."

The video, which has more than 220,000 views, shows an overturned vehicle engulfed in flames and a thick plume of smoke.

Screenshot of the false Facebook post, captured on April 4, 2023

The footage surfaced after a bus ferrying pilgrims to the holy city of Mecca burst into flames after a collision on a bridge on March 27, killing 20 people and injuring more than two dozen, according to Saudi state media.

The tragedy, which came during the first week of Ramadan, happened at Aqaba Shaar in the southern province of Asir.

The video was shared in similar posts on Facebook, including here and here, and on Twitter linking it to the crash.

Old video

A reverse image search on Google found a screenshot from the video in an article from 2017 about a string of accidents at Aqaba Shaar, a winding, mountainous road dotted with tunnels and bridges.

The article, published by Saudi news outlet almowaten.net on October 25, 2017, also says that citizens were urging the transport ministry to take measures to cut the number of deaths on the road.

A keyword search on Google found the video of the burning vehicle embedded in an article from June 2017 about an accident on the same road, in which a fuel tanker overturned and caught fire, killing the driver.

The report published by Saudi newspaper Sabq on June 24, 2017 also shows various photos of the charred vehicle.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video in false posts (left) and the video embedded in the Sabq article (right):

Screenshot comparison of the video in false posts (left) and a video embedded in the Sabq article (right)