Old footage of US tornado misrepresented as extreme weather in South Africa in 2024

At least 22 people died in South Africa in June 2024 as extreme weather stormed through two of the country’s coastal provinces. In the aftermath, social media users shared a video claiming it showed a tornado in South Africa. This is false: the footage features a 2022 twister that pummelled through Kansas in the United States.

“The #tornado seen on camera in KZN Durban,” reads an X post published on June 3, 2024, when at least one tornado ripped through the province of KwaZulu-Natal, close to Durban, a major city on the country's east coast.

Screenshot of the false X post, taken on June 4, 2024

The same video garnered more than 8,000 likes and hundreds of shares on TikTok, although the caption claimed the tornado struck the province on June 4, 2024. Unverified blogs also picked up the TikTok post. 

The clip doing the rounds on social media shows a tornado tearing through a town, sending debris swirling into the air.

However, the footage was not filmed in South Africa. 

Kansas twister

A reverse video search showed the footage was taken in Kansas, United States, two years earlier.

The clip shows a severe tornado ripping through Andover in Kansas on May 29, 2022, captured by meteorologist Reed Timmer with a drone (archived here).

According to reports (here and here) at the time, dozens of tornadoes tore through Kansas and Illinois between April 29 - May 2, 2022 (archived here and here)

Screenshot of one of the tornado reports on May 2, 2022

The author of the false post shared four other images on X claiming they also showed the recent inclement weather in KwaZulu-Natal. 

Screenshot of the misleading X post

However, a reverse image search revealed they were taken in South Africa in 2023.

The first image shows a so-called landspout in KwaZulu-Natal on June 27, 2023 (archived here). 

Comparison of the false 2024 post (left) and an article from 2023

A landspout is a less severe windstorm with similar characteristics, as the South African Weather Service (SAWS) explained at the time (archived here). 

The remaining three photos were taken from videos shared in June 2023 by various social media users (see here, here and here). The captions indicate they captured the aftermath of extreme weather conditions in KwaZulu-Natal around the same time.

Comparison of the misleading 2024 post (left) to posts in 2023 (right)

IsiZulu -- the most spoken language in the country and the KZN province -- can be heard in the 2023 videos. The second frame shows a white minibus, favoured by South Africa's informal taxi drivers.

2024 tornadoes

Flooding caused by torrential rain and fierce winds on South Africa's east coast killed at least 22 people, local authorities said on June 4, 2024 (archived here).

Residents salvage their belongings from destroyed houses after a tornado and extreme weather hit an informal settlement in Tongaat, north of Durban on June 04, 2024 (AFP / RAJESH JANTILAL)

The South African Weather Service said a large weather system -- a cut-off low -- caused heavy rainfall and flooding in the Eastern Cape and moved over to KwaZulu-Natal, which experienced severe thunderstorms, hail, heavy rainfall and two tornadoes (archived here).

In 2022, Durban and its surrounding areas were the scene of the worst flooding in South African history, with mudslides that killed more than 400 people (archived here).

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