Quetta bus fire reports on social media are false, images and videos taken out of context

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Claim: A bus caught on fire near Quetta after an accident on the N-25 National Highway claiming 47 lives.

Fact: No such incident took place. Pictures and videos shared on social media were taken out of context

On 8 June 2020, Soch Fact Check received a Facebook post for verification regarding a fatal bus accident that resulted in a fire and the loss of 47 lives on the Quetta-Karachi highway. The story was also unreported on mainstream media and was not mentioned by a single news website.

The claim was shared across different social media networks, with slight variations being reproduced on Twitter and Youtube. On Twitter, it was repeated dozens of times. Some posts on Facebook reached hundreds of people.

First line: (In Arabic) Verily we belong to God, and verily to Him do we return.

Soch Fact Check contacted Quetta motorway police for a statement but they did not attend the phone number provided by the Balochistan police directory. Zafar Khan, a manager and driver for Edhi Emergency ambulance service motorway branch in Quetta confirmed that the claim regarding the accident was false. He would have been aware if an accident had taken place, because the victims would be taken by Edhi ambulance service to either Aga Irfan hospital in Quetta or Civil Hospital Khuzdar, which had not happened. He also informed us that other ambulance services, namely Medical Emergency Response Centre (1122) and Sevan ambulance services, are not currently operating in the area.

Although reliable sources already informed us that the accident had not taken place, this raised the question of where the media allegedly depicting the accident came from. The Facebook post made on 7 June 2020 contained 2 images and a screenshot of a video that appeared in various other posts mentioning the incident. We investigated the images in this post. After a Google reverse image search, we found that the very same images were shared on Facebook and Twitter before 7 June 2020 when the accident allegedly took place.

The first image in the post above was a screenshot of a video. We’ll discuss the video after addressing the other two images. Through Google reverse image search, we found out the second image is an older image that is actually from Balochistan but which is at least 7 months old. The image was posted to the Facebook page Voice of Sariyab on 3 February 2020.

Using reverse image search and through contacting local sources, we found that the third image could be traced to an earlier accident that took place in Balochistan. Reverse image search found the image in a video from Khuzdar, Balochistan posted on 7 May 2020.

Reverse image search showing the second image in a youtube video

Student activist Zaheer Baloch clarified on posts containing the third image on Twitter that the image depicts an accident that took place in Khuzdar, Balochistan, earlier in the year, confirming what was revealed by reverse image search above.

Social worker/ student activist Zaheer Baloch addressed the misplaced image originally from Khuzdar, Balochistan.

Moving on to the screenshot from a video, reverse image searching the screenshot led to social media posts containing the full 8-minute video. On 8 June 2020 the video from which the aforementioned Facebook post took a screenshot was widely shared on Facebook and Youtube, claiming it was an accident that took place on the Quetta-Karachi highway.

The video from which screenshots were being shared and linked to Quetta-Karachi highway accident.

We suspected the video is not from Pakistan. After reverse image searching multiple frames from the video on Yandex, we found that the video is originally at least 2 years old. The oldest version we could locate was posted to vk.com, a Russian social media platform with over 100 million users.

On yk.com, the video is captioned and watermarked in a non-Pakistani language. Google translate shows that the video is watermarked with Namanganliklar.uz, an Uzbekistan based news publication’s name. The caption reads ”kanaliga abuna ba’ling” which translates to “subscribe to the channel” in Uzbek. The image may depict a 2018 bus fire incident from Uzbekistan.

Soch Fact Check contacted political leaders and journalists in Quetta to find out if there had been any such accident completely missed by the mainstream media, to consider the possibility that the accident might have happened even if all of the images shared in relation to the accident were verified as unrelated. Balochistan National Party member Naseem Javed and journalist Fahad Baloch, both confirmed they were aware of viral fake stories regarding an accident that took place on Quetta highway, but no such accident had taken place.

Mr. Naseem Javed clarified that if an accident of this magnitude killing 47 people had taken place on the only highway connecting Karachi to Quetta, it is impossible that it was neither reported by any mainstream or any other news organization. Furthermore, they said it was impossible that not a single verifiable image or video of the incident was shared online.

Summary: No bus accident took place in Quetta in the last week according to emergency service workers on the highway, political leaders and journalists. Images and videos posted to Twitter and other social media websites were taken from older accidents in Balochistan and outside Pakistan.

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