Video of 2019 Australia wildfire wrongly shared as Balochistan’s forest fire

The video depicts a 2019 wildfire in a forest in Victoria, Australia.

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Claim: A video circulating on social media depicts a forest fire in the Sherani district of Balochistan. 

Fact: The video does not show pine nut forests located in Balochistan’s Sherani district ablaze, but rather is of wildfires raging across a forest in Victoria, Australia in December 2019.

Fact or Fiction?

On 22 May 2022, a video was shared by former NA deputy speaker Qasim Khan Suri’s verified social media page with the claim that it depicts a forest fire in the Sherani district of Balochistan. 

The caption of the post reads, “‏بلوچستان کے علاقے شیرانی میں دنیا کے سب سے بڑے پائن نٹ (چلگوزا) کے جنگلات میں پچھلے 2 ہفتوں سے آگ لگی ہوئی ہے یہ جنگل وہاں کے لوگوں کی روزی روٹی کا سب سے بڑا ذریعہ ہے، لوگوں کے روزگار کے بعد اب انسانی جانیں خطرے میں ہیں۔ امپورٹڈ حکومت اس معاملے پر آنکھیں بند کیے ہوئے ہے۔ #Sherani [The world’s largest pine nut forest that is located in Balochistan’s Sherani district has caught fire that has been raging for the last two weeks. This jungle is the biggest source of livelihood for people there, after their livelihood, people’s lives are in danger now. The imported government is turning a blind eye to this issue #Sherani].”

The phrase “imported government” appears to be a reference to the administration of new Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, which came into power following former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ouster in April. 

Soch Fact Check found the video to be misleading after conducting a reverse image search which revealed that a video with similar scenes was shared here by Voice of America (VOA) on 2 January 2020. 

The 59-second video titled, “Aerial Footage Shows Scale of Fires in Australia” is accompanied by the description, “Aerial footage released Thursday, January 2, shows the breadth of the wildfires raging across a vast expanse of forest in Victoria, Australia earlier this week.”

Soch Fact Check took a screenshot from the viral video mentioned above and compared it with screenshots from the VOA video. 

Media outlet Dawn News used an image from the misleading video in a tweet. “کوہ سلیمان کے مختلف حصوں میں 13 دنوں سے لگی جنگل کی آگ پر قابو پایا نہ جاسکا ہے۔ [The forest fire in different parts of Koh-e-Suleman since 13 days has not been brought under control],” its tweet published 22 May 2022 reads. 

The credits on the VOA video read, “AP[Associated Press]/Glen Morey.” 

Glen Morey shared the original video on 2 January 2020 on his Twitter account.

This is the Wingan Fire just before we had to leave due to fading light on Sunday afternoon. It made it to the coast that night and now into Mallacoota,” his tweet reads.

IFCN-certified fact-checking website AFP also debunked the claim that the viral video depicts a forest fire in Balochistan, clarifying that it is in fact of the wildfire in Victoria, Australia. 

Morey confirmed to AFP that he took the video footage on 29 December 2019 while flying over the fire in eastern Victoria. 

Virality

According to a CrowdTangle analysis conducted by Soch Fact Check, the search term “بلوچستان کے  علاقے شیرانی میں چلگوزا کے جنگلات میں آگ لگی ہوئی ہے [Pine nut forest that is located in Balochistan’s Sherani district is on fire]” turned up 33 posts on Facebook which received 12,740 interactions over the seven-day period leading up to 27 May 2022. The interactions peaked on 22 May 2022. 

The analysis revealed that Qasim Suri’s post is performing two times better than other similar posts. It gained significant traction with 9,800 likes, 2,100 shares and 116,000 views. 

The claim was also picked up by other pages and groups on Facebook, including here, here, here, here and here, among others. 

On Twitter, the clip was shared by Pakistani politicians, including Awami National Party’s Mian Iftikhar Husain and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Zartaj Gul Wazir.

Conclusion: The video in question does not show a fire in the pine forests of the Sherani district of Balochistan. In fact, it is from December 2019 and shows a wildfire in a forest in Victoria, Australia.

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