Video shows 2011 Japan tsunami, not giant waves after 2024 earthquake

Dramatic footage of tsunami waves sweeping away cars has surfaced in social media posts that falsely claim it shows the aftermath of a powerful earthquake that hit Japan on January 1, 2024. The deadly New Year's Day quake triggered tsunami waves more than a metre high but the video in the posts was actually taken during the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011.

"The NHK presenter is shouting a lot at the moment the tsunami arrives! The announcement conveys a sense of urgency. People in Hokuriku, Niigata and Noto Peninsula, please run," reads a post written in Japanese that was shared on social media platform X on January 1, 2024.

The video featured in the post shows giant waves toppling boats and swallowing cars on a coastal road.

A voice could be heard saying the ground floor of a building is already underwater and that water is rushing in from the sea.

The old video resurfaced online the same day a 7.5-magnitude quake rattled Ishikawa prefecture on the main island of Honshu, which officials said on January 3 killed at least 62 people.

The earthquake triggered tsunami waves more than a metre high, sparked a major fire and tore apart roads.

Screenshot of the post on social media platform X, taken January 2, 2024

The video has also been shared alongside a similar claim worldwide by social media users in Greece, India, Japan, Myanmar, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand and the United States on various platforms such as Facebook, XTikTok and YouTube.

However, a reverse image search of keyframes on Google found the video was actually filmed following the devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan in March 2011 that left around 18,500 people either dead or missing.

Misused footage

The video shared in the false posts had been cropped and horizontally flipped, but it is in fact extracted from this video shared on YouTube by the Japanese broadcaster ANN from the 3:50 timestamp until the end (archived link). 

ANN's video is titled "Tsunami, Great East Japan Earthquake", and its caption states the footage was filmed on March 11, 2011 in Miyako city in Iwate prefecture on the eastern coast of Japan's main island.

Below are screenshot comparisons of the video shared in the false posts (left) and corresponding frames from the footage published by ANN on YouTube (right):

Screenshot comparisons of the video shared in a false X post and the original footage published on YouTube by ANN

The number seen on a speed limit sign in the false video -- marked by AFP in the screenshot below -- shows that the clip was flipped horizontally:

Screenshot of the video shared in a false X post, taken January 2, 2024

At the 4:17 and 5:17 marks in the ANN footage, the same voice speaking in Japanese can be heard (archived links here and here).

Moreover, a photo published by AFP captured the same scene from a similar angle during the 2011 quake.

The photo's caption says: "This picture taken by a Miyako City official on March 11, 2011 and released on March 18, 2011 shows a tsunami breeching an embankment and flowing into the city of Miyako in Iwate prefecture shortly after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit the region of northern Japan."

The location of the footage also corresponds to images taken in Miyako on Google Street View (archived link).

Below are screenshot comparisons of the video in the false posts flipped by AFP (left) and images from Google Maps (right) with the same structures highlighted:

Screenshot comparisons of the video in one of the false posts (left) and images from Google Maps (right)

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