Blog Posts on 2021 Sierra Leone Explosion Falsely Labeled ‘Indonesia’s Deadly Fire’

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Blog posts containing the same image of a raging fire have been shared by several Facebook posts which claim these are reports of a deadly fire in April 2022 in various locations in Indonesia. However, the claims are false. The blog posts actually describe the aftermath of the deadly oil tanker explosion in Sierra Leone in November 2021.

Such a claim appeared on this Facebook post, which was uploaded to a group of over 76,300 members on April 10, 2022.

Translated into English, the caption of the message reads: “Exactly today before sunrise a tanker truck explodes in front of a supermarket, dozens of people are victims. Bodies lie in front of a gas station. At Kolaka.”

Kolaka is a regency in the Indonesian province of Southeast Sulawesi.

Screenshot of misleading post, taken April 29, 2022

The Facebook post includes a link to an Indonesian-language blog post from April 2022, with a photo of a blazing fire and a clickbait headline describing a deadly tanker explosion outside a supermarket “today”. .

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

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

The posts above have been shared over 590 times.

However, the claims are false.

The content of the linked blog posts 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 revealed that the photo appeared in this report from Indonesian media iNews, dated November 6, 2021, about the disaster.

The first three paragraphs of the report read: “A fuel tanker truck exploded and was engulfed in fire outside a crowded supermarket, killing 99 people and injuring more than 100 others.

“The tragic incident occurred in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, on Friday, November 6, 2011, at approximately 10 p.m. local time. The fuel tanker truck suddenly exploded and then burst into flames at an intersection in front of the Choithram supermarket.

“Due to the explosion, two gas stations not far from the location were also engulfed in fire. The fuel that spilled onto the street also started a fire and burned nearby vehicles.”

Below is a screenshot comparison between the Facebook post image (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 on Twitter on November 6, 2021.

The iNews image matches the start of Sawlani’s video.

The blog posts also refer to a Reuters report, dated November 6, 2021, about the tanker fire.

AFP reported the incident here on November 6, 2021.

Amanda J. Marsh