Old foreign photos being circulated as Nepal wildfire photos

Sanjog Shiwakoti / March 31, 2021

Photos from wildfires — both Nepali and foreign — are being shared on social media as photos from the ongoing Nepal wildfires.

Nepal’s major cities including Kathmandu and Pokhara are blanketed by the smoke from the raging wildfires across the country over the last few days. In the absence of strong winds, the smog remains suspended over the Nepali sky. On March 26, Kathmandu was ranked the world’s most polluted city, by IQAir, a Swiss air quality technology company. The severe air pollution has forced the government to close schools in many districts including the capital, Kathmandu, for four days. Flights to and from Kathmandu and other airports have been suspended or diverted due to poor visibility.

Social media users have taken to Twitter and Facebook to draw the world’s attention to the disaster. On March 31, #PrayforNepal hashtag trended on Twitter. Social media users have shared various pictures of the wildfires. The photos have been shared here, here on Twitter and here, here on Facebook. But we found that some of these photos are misleading. They were from other countries.

South Asia Check has fact-checked four of the photos circulating on social media.

Photo 1

This photo of a deer fleeing the flames is seventeen years old and from the USA. It was taken on October 28, 2003 in California, according to the American television channel CBS. The channel has credited the photo to the Associated Press, an American news agency.

Photo 2

According to the National Geographic website, this photo of a cow against a fiery background is from the Yosemite National Park in California of the US. The photo was taken on August 24, 2013 by Noah Berger of the European Photo Agency (EPA).

Photo 3

This is a photo taken during a forest fire in Canada in the summer of 2017. According to the Digital Journal, the blaze in British Columbia had caused extensive damage.

Photo 4

According to The Conversation, a network of non-profit media outlets, this photo of the fire is from Indonesia. The digital outlet said the photo was taken by Rony Muharrman for Antara Foto, a photo agency based in Indonesia.

So it is now clear that the social media users shared misleading photos of wildfires from the US, Canada and Indonesia portraying them as Nepal’s photos.

This material is copyrighted but may be used for any purpose by giving due credit to southasiacheck.org.