Old clips of collapsing skyscrapers resurface with false claim they show 2024 quake in Japan

Following the 7.5-magnitude earthquake that struck Japan's western coast and triggered tsunami waves, a compilation of videos has been viewed several thousand times with a false claim it shows high-rise buildings collapsing in Japan because of the powerful tremor. The clip in fact shows various demolition jobs in China, an earthquake in Turkey in 2023 and a simulated game. 

"Japan earthquake 2024," reads the text overlaid on a Facebook reel shared on January 2, 2024. 

The video shows footage of high-rise buildings collapsing, a coastal town being jolted by strong tremors, people running away from tumbling buildings and chunks of debris falling from a white building.

The post has racked up 20,000 views. 

It circulated a day after a powerful earthquake struck Japan's central prefecture of Ishikawa on New Year's Day which caused fires, damaged infrastructure and killed more than 200 people.   

It was shared elsewhere on Facebook here and here and on TikTok such as here and here.

Screenshot of false post, taken January 10, 2024

A similar footage was falsely linked to the devastating earthquake in Turkey last year, which AFP debunked here

While one of the clips shows the earthquake that hit Japan on January 1, 2024, other footage in the video shows demolitions in various parts of China, structures destroyed in the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Turkey in February 2023 and a simulated earthquake.

2020 demolition in Lingao

The first clip, which shows a high-rise building crashing to the ground, corresponds to a 2020 post shared on the Chinese social media platform Meipian by an account that publishes official government releases (archived link). 

The post shows accompanying images and videos of the demolition of illegally constructed buildings taken at different angles. The demolition took place in the Lingao county of the southern Chinese province of Hainan in October 2020. 

One of the videos published on the same Meipian post also matches a scene seen later in the false video. 

Below are screenshot comparisons of the video in the false post (left) and the video uploaded on Meipian (right): 

Screenshot comparisons of the false video (left) and the Meipian post (right)

Chinese media outlets also reported about the demolition here and here (archived links here and here).

2021 demolition in Kunming

The third and fourth videos appear to show several tall buildings simultaneously falling to the ground. Clouds of dust surrounded the building at the centre that was left standing.

A Google reverse image search led to a report by American news outlet USA Today on a demolition project in the southern Chinese province of Kunming on August 27, 2021 (archived link). 

Chinese state media Global Times said the 15 high-rise buildings, which were originally constructed for residential purposes, were unfinished (archived link).    

Below are screenshot comparisons of the false video (left) and the video published by USA Today (right) at the 0:14 and 0:20 marks, with the same elements were highlighted by AFP: 

Screenshot comparisons of the false video (left) and the video published by USA Today (right)

Footage of the same demolition job was also published by video licensing agency Newsflare and The Indian Express (archived links here and here). 

2015 demolition in Xi'an

The fifth clip shows closeup footage of a high-rise building that had been reduced to rubble within seconds. 

A reverse image search on Baidu led to a video published by Chinese video news agency CCTV+ on November 15, 2015 (archived link). 

Its caption indicates it shows a 26-storey structure that was never used being demolished in Xi'an City in the northwestern Chinese province of Shaanxi. 

A banner with the name of a local demolition company can also be seen on the outside of the building in the video. 

Below is a screenshot comparison of the false post (left) and the video by CCTV+ (right): 

Screenshot comparison of the false video (left) and the CCTV Video News Agency footage (right)

The footage was also published by China Global Television Network (archived link). 

Turkey quake

Another video shows people running away from a debris cloud as a four-storey building collapsed. 

Reverse image searches on Google led to a YouTube video published by Turkish media outlet MHA Haber on February 6, 2023 (archived link). 

The video's headline says it captures footage of a collapsing building in the Turkish city of Adiyaman -- one of the most hard-hit areas in the devastating quake. 

The February 6 disaster was the strongest quake recorded in Turkey since 1939, exposing the nation's poor construction standards that resulted in even newly constructed buildings falling apart.

Officials say more than 12,000 buildings -- some built six months ago -- were either destroyed or seriously damaged in Turkey.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the false video (left) and the video uploaded by MHA Haber (right): 

Screenshot comparison of the false video (left) and the video uploaded by MHA Haber (right)

The video was also published by local reports such as here and here (archived links here and here). 

Simulated earthquake 

A reverse image search on Google of the keyframes of the crumbling white building led to a YouTube video uploaded on April 26, 2022 (archived link).

The account -- which says it edits gameplay videos -- added hashtags in the caption about Teardown and Minecraft, games which allow users to modify or simulate features and events such as an earthquake (archived links here and here). 

Aside from the video of the disintegrating white building, the user has also uploaded videos of other simulated earthquakes here (archived link).  

Below is a screenshot comparison  of the false video (left) and the 2022 YouTube video (right): 

Screenshot comparison of false video (left) and the 2022 YouTube video (right)

The account owner also dismissed in the comments section claims that his video shows a real earthquake. 

Other misinformation related to the New Year's Day quake in Japan has been fact-checked by AFP here, here and here

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