As the country is battling coronavirus pandemic, Uttarakhand is fighting another environmental tragedy. According to a report in Business Insider, forest fires have been raging in Uttarakhand for almost four days. A total of 46 forest fires have been reported from Uttarakhand, and many hectares of forest have already been gutted. It was also reported that the Kumaon region was among the worst-hit area with almost two dozen incidents of forest fires.
In the backdrop of it, several horrific photos of wildfires are being shared on social media, claiming that these are the latest pictures are from Uttarakhand forest fire. Here are some of the tweets:
Several blue tick handles, including Jitin Prasada, former Union Minister, shared the viral images on their respective handles. We found that the same viral pictures are being shared on Facebook and WhatsApp as well.
We started fact-checking the viral pictures one by one. Here’s what we found.
Image 1: We found that it is the most viral image across various social media platforms.
Using reverse-image search on the Google search engine, we found a postdated article of news website News 18 India, which carried out the same viral image. The headline of the article published on April 30, 2016, reads, Forest fires rage across Uttarakhand, Air Force help sought. The credits for the photograph were given to Arup Sah.
We searched for his profile on Facebook and found that he also uploaded the same viral image on his profile on April 28, 2016.
Another media outlet, ABP News, in its article, also carried out the same viral image.
Image 2: It is another image viral on social media. Jitin Prasada, former Union Minister, also shared a collage showing forest in flames. In the viral image, Pauri, a town and a municipal board in Pauri Garhwal district in Uttarakhand can be seen under massive fire. However, he deleted his tweet later on. Here is the archive version of the tweet.
A Google reverse search led us to an article published in Gulf today on May 14, 2019, on the alarming increase in forest fires across India. We could trace the image back to 2019. However, we were not able to ascertain the exact location of the picture.
Image 3: A Twitter user posted a set of two images. While we have debunked the second image, we fact-checked the first image in the tweet.
Google reverse image search led us to the Getty images website, which carried out the same viral image taken back on September 18, 2007. According to the description, the picture was taken when a major fire was reported in Fawnskin, California. The credits for the photograph were given to David McNew.
Image 4: A Twitter user posted a set of four images. We have already debunked the first two images; we fact-checked the other two images.
A Google reverse image search on the image, led us to an article published by Times of India on June 1, 2018, carrying out the same viral image. The headline of the article reads, Forest fires singe Himachal, claim four lives.
Another news media outlet, NDTV, carried out the image as a file photo in an article published on May 6, 2016. The headline reads, In Uttarakhand, Rain brings much-needed respite and hopes of business.
We now started fact-checking the fourth image. Google reverse image search led us to a website named Flickr, which carried out the same image. According to the website, the image was taken on August 17, 2013. The caption, along with the image reads, The Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest near California began on August 17, 2013, and is under investigation. The fire has consumed approximately 199,237 acres and is 32% contained. The credits for the photograph were given to Mike McMillan.
Meanwhile, the Uttarakhand Forest Fire department also clarified that the images being shared on social media are fake. The fire department also requested the users to share authentic information.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat also tweeted, saying that the old photos of fire are being shared to create a “misleading” impression on social media. The pictures of forest fires are from 2016 and 2019, whereas some of the photos were actually from forest fires in Chile and China.
He also posted a graphic, which shows that around 72 hectares of the area have been affected by forest fires as of May 25, whereas last year, around 1,600 hectares of area was affected due to forest fires by May 25.
Journalist Gargi Rawat posted a video of Dr. Parag Madhukar, an official with Forest Department, who clarified that there are no massive forest fires in Uttarakhand. He further added that many old and wrong visuals are being shared on social media.
ANI also carried out the statement of Ashok Kumar, Director General of Police (Law and Order), who stated that some users had spread rumors on social media that massive fire has broken out in Uttarakhand forests, which is not true. Photos that are being shared are as old as 2016 when a massive fire had broken out, whereas some photos are from foreign countries, he added.He further added that FIR is being registered against people who are spreading rumors, and stringent legal action will be taken against them.
Forest fires are indeed ravaging Uttarakhand, but some of the images being massively shared on social media are misleading. Old and unrelated images are being passed off on social media as recent pictures from Uttarakhand forest fires.
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