Old video of Sri Lanka cargo ship fire falsely linked to Huthi attack

Dramatic footage of plumes of smoke billowing from a cargo ship shows an incident in 2017, contrary to social media posts that falsely linked it to a Huthi attack in the Arabian Sea, as the rebels targeted commercial shipping following the outbreak of the Gaza war. The video shows a fire that engulfed a massive container ship off the coast of Sri Lanka.

"Israeli cargo ship MSC Sarah V after a missile attack by Huthi fighters," reads a Sinhala-language Facebook post that shared the video on June 27.

Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels have launched scores of missile and drone attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea and Arabian Sea since November 2023 in attacks they say are in solidarity with Palestinians during the Gaza war (archived link).

The war was triggered by an unprecedented attack on Israel by Hamas on October 7 from the Gaza Strip that resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

Hamas militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza including 42 the army says are dead.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 37,950 people, also mostly civilians, according to figures from the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

The minute-long video shows thick plumes of smoke billowing from a cargo vessel, while two ships on either side of it attempt to douse the flames.

Screenshot of the false post captured on June 28, 2024

The video circulated in similar posts on Facebook, Instagram and X after the Huthis claimed an attack on June 24 targeting a container ship in the Arabian Sea with "a new ballistic missile" (archived link).

The rebels posted footage they said showed the missile fired at the Liberia-flagged MSC Sarah V (archived link).

The Red Sea and Gulf of Aden Joint Maritime Information Center said the ship was targeted but not hit.

It added that the vessel was likely attacked due to perceived links to Israel.

Sri Lanka fire

However, the footage shared on Facebook shows a ship that caught fire off the coast of Sri Lanka in 2017.

The watermark on the video reads "adaderana.lk", referring to the website of Sri Lankan news outlet Ada Derana. 

Screengrab of the video with watermark of Ada Derana highlighted by AFP

Ada Derana reported on the fire that broke out on April 4, 2017 on a massive container ship travelling from Singapore to Egypt (archived link).

Sri Lanka's navy said it received a distress call when the 14,000-container carrier MSC Daniela was about 120 nautical miles (222 kilometres) away from the island, AFP reported.

There were no casualties among the 22-member crew, the ship's owner Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) said in a statement (archived link).

Below is a screenshot comparison of the clip in false posts (left) and in Ada Derana's report (right):

Screenshot comparison of the clip in false posts (left) and in Ada Derana's report (right)

The Sri Lankan Navy published similar photos of the blaze in which the name of the ship is clearly visible on the bow (archived link)

A photo of the blaze on the Sri Lankan Navy's website

AFP has fact-checked more misinformation around Huthi attacks here

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