Disaster Fact Checks

FACT CHECK: Video falsely links 2011 Japan tsunami to recent quake

Rappler.com

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FACT CHECK: Video falsely links 2011 Japan tsunami to recent quake
A TikTok video misrepresents clips of the 2011 Japan tsunami as recent footage from the damage wrought by the magnitude 7.6 earthquake that rocked Western Japan on January 1

Claim: A TikTok video shows devastation from a tsunami in Japan following the earthquake that struck the country on January 1.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The video containing the claim has gained over 2.1 million views, 43,400 reactions, 659 comments, and 5,584 shares as of writing. 

The post dated January 2 included video footage of a catastrophic tsunami wreaking havoc in Japan with cars and other structures being washed out by the waves. The video is captioned “Tsunami in Japan 2024.”

TikTok user @natural.disaster33, which has over 2,000 followers on the platform, posted the video.

The facts: The clips used in the misleading TikTok video are old footage from the 2011 Japan tsunami disaster. The scenarios shown in the video are not currently happening anywhere in Japan following the magnitude 7.6 quake that struck the country on January 1.

The TikTok video combines two clips sourced from the 2011 Japan tsunami. One segment aligns with footage that runs from 3:46 to 4:45 mark of a January 2020 ANN News YouTube post titled Tsunami, Great East Japan Earthquake – Miyako city, Iwate Pref, Japan [11 Mar 2011]. The second clip is taken from 0:08 to 0:10 mark of a National Geographic video titled Tsunami 101, both identified through manual video and reverse image searches.

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) initially issued a major tsunami warning for Ishikawa prefecture following the New Year’s Day quake, but there were no reports of tsunami waves of the same height as the 2011 tidal wave. 

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and other officials have warned the public against misleading and “malicious” content online as old videos of the 2011 tsunami resurface on social media.

Tsunami warnings lifted: According to Japan’s tsunami warning system, “tsunami advisories” are issued for waves anticipated to reach up to one meter in height, while a “tsunami warning” is issued for those forecasted to reach up to three meters. Waves expected to exceed three meters are labeled under a “major tsunami warning.” 

As of Friday, January 5, there were no tsunami warnings or advisories from the JMA. 

In comparison: The 2011 Japan disaster registered a magnitude 9.0 earthquake which generated a massive tsunami of up to 40 meters high. An estimated 20,000 people died in what is often referred to as the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami

The magnitude 7.6 earthquake that rocked the western coast of Japan on January 1 triggered waves of around four feet high that hit Wajima city in Ishikawa. The death toll has reached 78 as rescuers continue their search for survivors. (IN PHOTOS: Aftermath of magnitude 7.6 earthquake in Japan) – Jerry Yubal Jr./Rappler.com

Jerry Yubal Jr. is an Aries Rufo Journalism Fellow for 2023-2024

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