Video shows 2011 Japan tsunami, not Dubai floods

Dubai's giant highways were clogged by flooding following record rains in the Middle East financial centre on April 16, 2024 that killed at least four people. However, a dramatic video of cars swept away does not show the chaos, as falsely claimed by social media posts. The footage shows a tsunami in Japan in 2011.

"Check this out guys. Dubai is really pitiful," says a woman narrating a Facebook reel posted on April 19, 2024.

"While it's really hot here (in the Philippines), the floods in Dubai are severe," she says in Tagalog. 

The video -- superimposed with a Tagalog-language sticker that translates as "Dubai today" -- shows massive waves washing away cars and cargo containers.

Screenshot of the false Facebook post, taken on April 21, 2024

Similar Facebook posts shared the video here, here and here.

At least four people died after heavy flooding hit the United Arab Emirates, including three Filipino workers.

Two women suffocated inside their vehicle during the flooding in Dubai and one man died when his vehicle fell into a sinkhole in Sharjah, the Philippines' Department of Migrant Workers said.

A 70-year-old man was also swept away in his vehicle in Ras Al-Khaimah, another of the oil-rich Gulf state's seven emirates.

However, the video in the false posts shows a tsunami that surged through the Japanese prefecture of Iwate in 2011 -- the worst natural disaster in the East Asian country's living memory.

Japan tsunami

A Google reverse image search found a similar video of the 2011 Japan tsunami posted on YouTube by Japan News Network on February 25, 2021 (archived link). 

According to the caption, the footage shows "a huge tsunami washed away cars and containers along the coast of Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture" on March 11, 2011. 

Below is a screenshot comparison of the false post (left) and Japan News Network's video at the one-minute 57-second mark (right), with corresponding elements highlighted by AFP: 

Screenshot comparison of the false post (left) and the video uploaded by Japan News Network (right), with corresponding elements highlighted by AFP

The 2011 Japan earthquake unleashed a powerful tsunami that killed 15,899, with another 2,527 people missing and presumed to be dead, according to Japan's national police agency. 

The waves hit with such force that homes were destroyed right down to their foundations in many places, leaving areas that were once thriving communities almost entirely featureless.

AFP geolocated the white building seen in the video's background along Rinkodori, Miyako City in the Japanese prefecture of Iwate (archived link).

Another clip -- which showed the same area in Miyako City after the tsunami waves had receded --  was published by the YouTube channel "2011 Japan Tsunami Archives" (archived link).  

The same video was previously shared in social media posts that incorrectly linked it to Japan's earthquake on New Year's Day 2024. 

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