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A video claiming to show Taiwan quake is 3 years old

April 4, 2024

Many images and videos have been posted online since this week's 7.4-magnitude earthquake on Taiwan's east coast. One video has nothing to do with the quake. It's not the first time it has been taken out of context.

A picture of demolished buildings and the word "false"
These buildings are not in Taiwan but in Kunming in the Chinese province of YunnanImage: X/@Rajprashikshit

On the morning of April 3, Taiwan was shaken by the worst earthquake to hit the island state in at least 25 years. Several people died and hundreds were injured. Social networks are full of videos and images of the natural disaster. Most are authentic, but there is also footage that has been taken from other contexts and manipulated.

Claim: One video currently circulating on X, formerly Twitter, purports to show several high-rise buildings that toppled almost like building blocks in the wake of the Taiwan earthquake. One post with at least 10,000 views reads: "See the condition of skyscrapers after 7.5 magnitude #earthquake hit #Taiwan." Another post with 54,000 views reads: "A shocking incident happened in Taiwan, See the Skyscraper condition!"

Pictures of buildings toppling and the words "real" and "false"
These buildings in China were torn down as part of a controlled demolition exerciseImage: X/@Brutal_Sumit (right) / X/@GRomePow (left)

DW fact check: False.

The video of the toppling skyscrapers is not recent and comes from a context that is fortunately far less dramatic than it appears in these recent posts. The footage dates back to August 2021 and is of a controlled demolition of high-rise buildings in Kunming, the capital of the southern Chinese province of Yunnan.

We found this by extracting a "still" photo from the video and entering it into Google Reverse Image Search

Thus, we ruled out that the video depicts the recent earthquake in Taiwan because the image had already circulated online well before. This YouTube video was posted on March 28, 2024, and this still picture from the same videowas posted on February 26, 2024.

In the summer and fall of last year, some TikTok accounts also shared the videothat has now re-emerged in the context of the Taiwan earthquake, referring to the demolition of buildings in Kunming.

But how old is the video? Our search for footage of a controlled demolition of buildings in Kunming led us to this video posted on Germany's Welt news channel on August 31, 2021.

The same buildings appear clearly. The North American Vice magazine also reported on the demolition in Kunming on its website, saying that it had taken place on August 27, 2021. It said the half-finished buildings had been torn down because "constructors ran out of money to finish them."

After a construction boom in China that was promoted for decades by the state, the real estate sector is now in crisis and unfinished and vacant buildings in what people call "ghost cities" have become commonplace.

Before being wrongly used to depict the situation in Taiwan after the recent earthquake, the video of buildings being demolished in Kunming circulated with claims that the footage was of the aftermath of an earthquake in Morocco or the result of a rocket attack in Gaza

This fact check was originally published in German. 

Massive earthquake rocks Taiwan