Blog articles about 2021 explosion in Sierra Leone falsely shared as 'deadly blaze in Indonesia'

·3 min read

Blog articles containing the same picture of a raging fire have been shared by multiple Facebook posts which claim they are reports of a fatal blaze in April 2022 in various locations in Indonesia. However, the claims are false. The blog posts actually describe the aftermath of a deadly fuel tanker explosion in Sierra Leone in November 2021.

One such claim appeared on this Facebook post, which was uploaded in a group with more than 76,300 members on April 10, 2022.

Translated to English, the post's caption reads: "Exactly today before sunrise, a fuel tanker explodes in front of a supermarket, tens of people become victims. Dead bodies lying in front of a gas station. In Kolaka."

Kolaka is a regency in Indonesia's Southeast Sulawesi province.

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on April 29, 2022

The Facebook post includes a link to an Indonesian-language blog article from April 2022, with a photo of a blazing fire and a clickbait headline describing a deadly fuel tanker explosion in front of a supermarket "today".

AFP found two other blog articles here and here containing the same photo and headline. Both articles were also shared on Facebook with a similar claim to the first post but naming different locations in Indonesian.

For example, this post claims the fire happened in Purwodadi, a town in Indonesia’s Central Java province; while here, here and here the incident's location is said to be in Padang Panjang, West Sumatra province, in Binjai and Indrapura -- both in North Sumatra province.

The posts above have been shared more than 590 times.

However the claims are false.

The content of the linked blog articles contradicts the Facebook captions, as they contain details of a deadly fuel tanker explosion in Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, in November 2021.

A reverse image search on Google found that the photo appeared in this report by Indonesian news outlet iNews, dated November 6, 2021, about the disaster.

The first three paragraphs of the news report read: "A fuel tanker truck exploded and was engulfed in blaze in front of a crowded supermarket, killing 99 people and injured more than 100 others.

"The tragic incident occurred in Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, on Friday, November 6, 2011, around 10 pm local time. The fuel tanker truck suddenly exploded then caught fire at an intersection in front of Choithram Supermarket.

"Because of the explosion, two gas stations not far from the location were also engulfed in fire. The fuel that spilled on the street also sparked fire and burned nearby vehicles."

Below is a screenshot comparison between the image in the Facebook post (L) and the iNews image (R):

A screenshot comparison between the image in the Facebook post (L) and the iNews image (R)

Journalist Samira Sawlani posted a video of the Freetown incident to Twitter on November 6, 2021.

The iNews image matches the beginning of Sawlani's video.

The blog articles also reference a Reuters news report, dated November 6, 2021, about the fuel tanker fire.

AFP reported on the incident here on November 6, 2021.

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