Japan tsunami footage falsely linked to Israel shared widely on TikTok

A TikTok video watched millions of times claims to show waves wiping out cars and buildings in Israel as the country bombs the Gaza Strip in response to Hamas militants' October 2023 attack. But the clips in the post are misrepresented; they show scenes from a tsunami that devastated Japan in 2011.

"Israel New Update," says the caption under the October 31, 2023 post, which shows two clips of rushing waters barreling ashore.

Screenshot from TikTok taken November 3, 2023

The clip racked up more than 6.9 million views as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian military group in Gaza raged into November. It was later removed, but other iterations spread across TikTok.

Israel's military said its ground forces have tightened an encirclement of Gaza City, the stronghold of Hamas, whose fighters killed 1,400 people -- mainly civilians -- and took around 240 hostages in an unprecedented October 7 attack, according to Israeli officials.

The Hamas-controlled health ministry said nearly one month of bombardment by Israel has killed more than 10,000 people in the Palestinian territory, mostly women and children.

But the footage of floodwaters taking out cars and structures is unrelated to the war -- and was captured far from Israel.

Both the clips trace to a March 11, 2011 tsunami that leveled Japan, a series of reverse image and keyword searches revealed.

The 2011 tsunami was prompted by a massive earthquake that struck off the coast, producing waves that tossed ships inland, sent water barreling over sea walls, triggered a nuclear disaster and left more than 18,500 people dead or missing.

The TikTok's first images, which show Japanese signage on the street, come from an AFP report published months after the disaster as debris washed up in the United States and Canada (archived here).

An AFP voiceover on the clip says: "As much as 20 million tons of debris may have been pulled into the Pacific."

The TikTok's second shot, meanwhile, inverts footage of the tsunami hitting Miyako City that was published by the Japan News Network (archived here), among other programs.

Screenshot from TikTok taken November 3, 2023

Buildings and other elements from the video appear to match Google Maps Street View imagery from a port in the city (archived here).

AFP has previously fact-checked other social media posts misrepresenting footage from the tsunami.

AFP has also debunked other misinformation about the Israel-Hamas war here.

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