Old photo of tilting quake-hit building falsely linked to April 2024 Taiwan earthquake

Dozens of buildings were damaged when Taiwan was hit by its strongest earthquake in 25 years in April 2024, but a picture shared repeatedly online showing a tilting high-rise structure was actually taken following a quake over six years ago. At least seven people died and hundreds were injured when the 7.4-magnitude quake struck the island in the morning of April 3, prompting tsunami warnings that extended to Japan and the Philippines before being lifted.

A local media website in the Philippines shared the image in a Facebook post about the latest earthquake on April 3, 2024.

It shows a high-rise building leaning at a precarious angle. The Ilonggo-language text overlaid on the image reads: "Taiwan was hit by a 7.4 magnitude earthquake". 

Seven people were killed and hundreds more injured after the powerful earthquake struck Taiwan on April 3, 2024, prompting tsunami warnings in Japan and the Philippines that have since been lifted. 

Wu Chien-fu, the director of Taipei's Central Weather Administration's Seismology Center, said the quake -- with an epicentre in Taiwan's eastern Hualien county -- was the strongest in 25 years to hit the island.

Screenshot of false post, taken on April 3, 2024

Although dramatic images of multi-storey structures tilting precariously in Hualien and elsewhere were shown on local TV, the image used by the Philippine media site is old.

The same photo was also shared repeatedly across Facebook posts here, here and here

Another similar photo of a leaning building was previously falsely linked to a December 2020 earthquake in Taiwan, debunked by AFP here

2018 photo

A Google reverse image search led to a photo published by international broadcaster Voice of America on February 7, 2018 (archived link). 

The caption reads: "A residential building leans on a collapsed first floor following an earthquake, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, in Hualien, southern Taiwan."

It is credited to Taiwan's state-owned Central News Agency (CNA).

Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo used in the false posts (left) and the CNA photo of the 2018 quake (right): 

Screenshot comparison of the photo used in the false posts (left) and the CNA photo of the 2018 quake (right)

AFP and US broadcaster ABC News also published similar photos of the toppled building in February 2018 (archived links here and here).

AFP was able to geolocate the building to Guosheng 2nd Street in Hualien city as seen in Google Street View imagery from 2017 (archived link). 

Street View imagery from May 2023 shows the building has been converted into a parking lot (archived link).

Below is a screenshot comparison of the 2017 Street View image (left) and the 2023 image (right): 

Screenshot comparison of the 2017 Street View image (left) and the 2023 image (right)

An AFP report on February 9, 2018 states the quake-hit building was demolished "to maintain safety for the public". 

When natural disasters strike, old or manipulated videos often circulate online. AFP has previously debunked misinformation related to earthquakes such as here, here and here

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