Image of Japanese factory explosion misleadingly shared alongside claim it was 'storing vaccines'

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An image of a damaged building has been shared repeatedly in Korean-language social media posts that claim it shows the aftermath of an explosion at "a factory storing Covid-19 vaccines" in Japan. This is misleading: the image corresponds to multiple news reports about an explosion at a Japanese factory that handles raw materials for semiconductors. A spokesperson for the factory told AFP it does not produce or store vaccines.

The image was shared on Facebook on January 20, 2022.

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post. Captured January 24, 2022.

The post shows a Korean-language blog containing the image.

The blog's headline translates as: "A factory storing Covid-19 vaccines exploded in Japan. Possible [there will be a] complete halt to vaccinations.

"Most of the vaccines stored [in the building] were destroyed by the explosion."

The post's caption translates as: "Japan is doing really well with its [pandemic] exit strategy."

The image was also shared alongside a similar claim on Facebook here, here, here and here; and on YouTube here.

But the claim is misleading.

There have been no official reports about a recent explosion at a vaccine storage facility or factory in Japan.

The Japanese government plans to continue offering free Covid-19 vaccines until at least September 2022, according to its health ministry.

Factory explosion

In reality, the image corresponds to news footage of an explosion at a Japanese factory for semiconductor materials.

A reverse image search on Google found similar footage of the same building posted on YouTube on January 6, 2022 by KHB, a Japanese news broadcaster based in Japan's Miyagi Prefecture.

The video's Japanese-language description translates as: "On the morning of the 6th, two men were taken to a hospital after an explosion at a factory in Sanbongi, Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, which manufactures raw materials for semiconductors."

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image shared on Facebook (left) and the KHB footage (right):

screenshot comparison of the image shared on Facebook (L) and footage of the building posted to YouTube by KHB (R)

Japanese news organisations Kyodo News and The Sankei News also reported on the explosion. There were no references to Covid-19 vaccines in the reports.

The Kyodo report identifies the factory as owned by the Japanese company RASA Industries.

On the company's website here, it lists deodorising chemicals; industrial machinery; and electronic materials among its products.

"We do not produce Covid-19 vaccines nor store them," a spokesperson for RASA Industries told AFP.

AFP previously has debunked misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines in Japan here.