Viral video claims Indians ill with Covid-19 but they’re actually victims of a gas leak

Ces images d’individus au sol en Inde ne visent pas à simuler des morts du Covid-19, mais font suite à une catastrophe industrielle survenue en mai 2020.
Ces images d’individus au sol en Inde ne visent pas à simuler des morts du Covid-19, mais font suite à une catastrophe industrielle survenue en mai 2020. © Observateurs

On French Twitter, people have been talking about “PsyOps”— which they say are deliberate attempts to dramatise the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. It all began with a tweet that included footage of ill people in India. On social media, people claimed the footage showed Covid-19 victims. It turns out, however, that isn’t the real story.

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The whole “PsyOps” Twitter trend began with a tweet posted on April 26 showing people in India infected with Covid-19. The author of the tweet, who wrote in French, claimed that the footage exaggerated the effects of the pandemic and that it was broadcast on Indian television in order to scare people into complying with various containment methods like lockdown and mask-wearing. The author called it a “psychological destabilization operation” or “PsyOps”.

This video was picked up and widely shared on Twitter, garnering more than 110,000 views. Everyone seemed to have a different opinion as to what was going on in the video. 

“The fact that several people got ill at the same time and the same place proves that it isn’t the virus. It’s more like the 5G electromagnetic phenomenon or something,” hypothesized one user.

So what is the real story behind the alarming scenes in the video?

Hundreds of people poisoned

To find the origin of this footage, our team carried out a reverse image search with InVID (click here to see how). On both Google and Yandex, we found numerous instances when this video was previously posted online. It turns out that the video is a compilation of excerpts from footage filmed during an industrial disaster in India in 2020.  

On the night of May 6, 2020, there was a toxic gas leak in a factory run by LG Polymers, the Indian branch of the South Korean company LG Chemicals, outside of the industrial port city of Visakhapatnam, which is in Andhra Pradesh state. A total of 13 people died and more than 1,000 were wounded. 

People living in villages near the factory were sleeping when the leak occured and some inhaled the gas in their sleep. Hundreds of people who were poisoned by the gas were hospitalised in Visakhapatnam. Photos taken that day show men, women and children affected by the gas, some collapsing on the sidewalk, others in the street. 

In the days following the leak, media outlets in India and Korea continued to share images of the disaster. Both French and English-language media outlets also reported on the incident. 

A mistake by an American media outlet 

One of the media outlets that wrongly associated footage of the gas leak with the pandemic was the New York Post. They published an article on April 26 entitled “COVID surge ‘swallowing’ people in India, footage shows people dead in streets”.

Some people on social media picked up on the error and used it to illustrate their theory that international media outlets are exaggerating the Covid-19 situation in India.

“The fact that they have to recycle old images of people dying says a lot about the real situation in India,” wrote one Facebook user. “It’s another example of media outlets lying to you,” said one tweet. 

'New York Post caught hyping up the India deaths with fake news'

The New York Post was caught hyping up the India deaths with fake news. The first image in this post is from a gas leak in India, May 2020. 

This post was shared by Andy Howlett on Wednesday, April 28, 2021
This post was shared by Andy Howlett on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 © Observers

This post was shared by Andy Howlett on Wednesday, April 28, 2021

"The New York Post is visibly embarrassed and has removed its misleading photo"

 

A few hours after the article was posted, the New York Post took down the video from the article and changed the title to “The wave of COVID swallows people in India like a monster”.  

The newspaper says, in a note at the bottom of the page, that they had previously used images from Reuters News Agency that falsely identified victims of a gas leak as victims of Covid-19.

The New York Post isn’t the only media outlet to have fallen for it. On April 23, 2021, a Sri Lankan television channel broadcast footage of a woman collapsing from the gas leak, claiming that she was ill with Covid-19. 

Moreover, it’s not the first time that videos of this gas leak were misused. In late May 2020, the video circulated on Indian, Chinese and Iranian social media networks… with people claiming that the footage showed people collapsing after being stung by a deadly flying insect. 

India overwhelmed by the pandemic

While it is true that this video does not show people in India succumbing to Covid-19, the country is facing a terrifying wave of positive cases. The country’s hospitals are facing acute shortages of oxygen, which is needed to treat patients in respiratory distress.

 

The country has recently reached the grim milestone of 200,000 deaths and crematoriums are overwhelmed by the bodies that are piling up, day by day.