None of these photos of a purported ‘pipeline explosion’ were taken in Myanmar

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Four photos have been shared thousands of times in multiple posts on Facebook and Twitter alongside a claim they show an explosion at the Sino-Myanmar gas pipeline. The posts circulated online in March 2021 after Beijing expressed concern over the security of the twin pipelines project following the Myanmar military coup. The photos, however, have been shared in a false context: none of them show an explosion at the Sino-Myanmar pipeline. As of April 19, 2021, there have been no credible reports of a gas pipeline explosion in Myanmar following the military coup.

The photos were published here on Twitter on March 7, 2021.

A screenshot, taken on April 12, 2021, of the misleading post.

The caption, written in both English and Chinese, reads: “Explosion of Chinese Gas Pipeline in Myanmar is only internal affairs because it exists within the territory of Myanmar #ShameOnYouChina #WhatsHappeningInMyanmar”. 

The photos (clockwise from left to right) purport to show: workers fixing a pipeline; thick black smoke rising on the horizon in a rural location; a pipeline in a desert; a map of Sino-Myanmar pipelines with sections circled in red.  

China-owned textile factories have been burned down in Yangon townships following a military coup on February 1, 2021. 

Myanmar’s massive pro-democracy movement accuses China of waving through the generals' power grab and trading Myanmar's freedom for its own strategic gain. AFP reported on the developments here.

The photos were also shared in Chinese, English and Burmease alongside similar claims on Facebook here and here; and Twitter here and here.

The claim, however, is false.

US pipeline photo

A reverse image search on Google has found the first photo was published here by Minnesota Public Radio on September 26, 2017. 

It is captioned: “According to Enbridge, the multibillion-dollar Line 3 replacement represents the largest project in the company's history. Here, contractors work near Superior, Wis.” 

The image is credited to “Derek Montgomery for MPR News”.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the first photo in the misleading post and the photo from MPR News:

A screenshot comparison of the first photo in the misleading post and the photo from MPR news.

The same image was shared here by a US-based construction site.

Iran-Afghanistan border blaze 

A reverse image search on Google has found the second photo is actually a still taken from a video in a Reuters’ news article published here on February 13, 2021. 

The video is titled: “Dozens hurt in fire near Iran-Afghanistan border”. 

Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo in the misleading post (L) and the screenshot take from Reuters video (R):

A screenshot comparison of the misleading photo and the Reuter’s video.

AFP published this fact check report about the same photo in February 2021 debunking a similar misleading claim.

California desert image

Through a reverse image search on Google, AFP found the third photo published here on the stock image website Shutterstock. 

The caption reads: “Pipeline in the Mojave desert.” 

The Mojave desert is in the US state of California.

The image is credited to Darren J. Bradley, whose profile on Shutterstock shows he frequently shares photos from California.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the third photo in the misleading post (L) and the photo on Shutterstock:

A screenshot comparison of the third photo in the misleading post and the Shutterstock photo.

Pipeline map

The fourth photo was published here in a research paper by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council on June 8, 2016. 

The research paper’s title is: “Myanmar Rising: Opportunities in Asia’s Final Production Frontier”. 

The map is captioned: “Myanmar-China Oil and Gas Pipelines”.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the map graphic from the misleading post and the graphic from HKTDC research report:

A screenshot comparison of the graphic from the misleading post and the graphic from HKTDC research report.

As of April 18, 2021, there have been no credible reports of a gas pipeline explosion in Myanmar following the military coup.

The misleading claim was also debunked by the University of Hong Kong’s fact-checking project Annie Lab here.

Myanmar Military Coup