Peru hill collapse image being circulated as Darchula landslide photo

South Asia Check / July 23, 2020

Many social media users have shared the Darchula landslide news along with a picture.

By Deepak Adhikari

“Update: Two killed in Darchula landslide, seven houses including a school building buried,” read a news headline with an accompanying photograph of a landslide, which was widely shared on social media on July 20.

The news report with the photo was published by a news website named Kalapani Times on July 20. Janaboli, another news website, also published the news with exactly the same headline and the photo. But Janaboli labeled the photograph as ‘File Photo’. South Asia Check found that the news of the landslide was true but the photograph in question was misleading.

Many Twitter and Facebook users shared the photo and the news published by the news websites. Sidha Kura Nepali News, a Facebook group with over a million members, shared the news report of Kalapani Times. Likewise, Chadani Post, another news website, published the same news and it was shared by Sidhakura Janatasanga Facebook group (with over 300,000 members) and by another Facebook group called Netrawati Dabjong_3 Gairabasi, which has 18,000 members.

Sanjiv Wagle, who identifies himself as the editor-in-chief of a news website called Gundruk Khabar, tweeted the landslide photo with the following words: “Incessant rain and resulting disaster.” After Twitter users commented on and questioned his Tweet, he replied: “I just attempted to show the disaster situation caused by the rain and landslide. The news was not mine. I didn’t publish that.” His Tweet, posted at 9:45 pm on July 20 has drawn 30 comments and retweets and 117 likes until Thursday.

Fact check

A reverse image search of the photo on Google and Yandex showed that it was a more than two years old photo of a landslide in Cusco of Peru in South America. In March 2018, a slow, week-long erosion of the farmland had culminated in a landslide in the Peruvian village of Lutto Kututo. Because the landslide occurred over a week and the area was devoid of human settlement, there was no human casualty, according to reports. But, the landslide destroyed 100 houses, according to Dave Petley, a professor at University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, who runs a popular landslide blog. Some news websites in Rwanda and Uganda have also published the Peru photo claiming it depicted a landslide in those countries. Running a Google search with keywords “landslide image” results in the photo appearing at the top of the page.

Watershed expert Madhukar Upadhya said misleading photos such as the one in question tend to circulate widely during the monsoon season, when landslides and floods wreak havoc across Nepal. “Every year during the monsoon season, such photos are shared widely. It seems people do this in an attempt to draw the attention of the relevant authorities to these disasters. Also, some people tend to act out of a selfish desire to break news,” he told South Asia Check. He said nobody believes that such a place as shown in the picture exists in the mid-hills of Nepal.

From all this, we can conclude that the photo used to depict the Darchula landslide is misleading.

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