Old video of burning ship in Sri Lanka falsely shared as Huthi attack

  • Published on June 26, 2024 at 11:38
  • 2 min read
  • By AFP Indonesia
Yemen's Huthi rebels have targeted vessels in and around the Red Sea in an ongoing campaign they say is an act of solidarity with Palestinians. Footage of a burning ship shared in TikTok and X posts about the attacks is, however, unrelated. The video in fact shows a vessel that caught fire after reporting an onboard acid leak off the coast of Sri Lanka in 2021.

"Huthi cannot be stopped!!" read Indonesian text on a TikTok video with more than 14,000 views.

"US, Israel and the European allies have all failed to stop Huthi missile and drone attacks. Ignoring Huthi's warnings is not good and could be costly."

The video, posted on June 18, 2024, shows a cargo ship engulfed in flames.

Screenshot of a TikTok post sharing the false claim, taken June 26, 2024

Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels have launched scores of drones and missiles at commercial vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November in attacks they say are in solidarity Palestinians during the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

The United States and its allies, particularly Britain, have responded with an increased naval presence to defend shipping in the vital waterway and with retaliatory strikes on Huthi targets.

The video was shared in similar posts on TikTok and X, formerly Twitter, and spread around the world in countries including Iran and United Arab Emirates.

 Sri Lanka maritime disaster

A reverse image search on Google found a longer version of the footage posted on YouTube on May 25, 2021 (archived link).

The title of the video read: "Old Accident of Burned M V X-Press Pearl".

The X-Press Pearl was a Singapore-registered container ship that caught fire after reporting an onboard acid leak on May 20, 2021 off the coast of Sri Lanka's capital Colombo.

Hundreds of tonnes of chemicals and plastics leaked from the ship, which burned for two weeks before sinking.

AFP published footage of the disaster.

(Sri Lanka Air Force)

photo of the ship that the Sri Lanka Ports Authority posted on Facebook on the day of the fire confirms it shows the same vessel seen in the video shared in false social media posts (archived link). 

Screenshot comparison of the video shared online (left) and a photo posted by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (right)

More photos of rescue efforts posted by the SLPA shows 'X-PRESS PEARL' written on the side of the boat (archived link).

AFP has fact-checked more misinformation about Huthi attacks here

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