Fact check: Photos show Uruguay, Australia, Fiji – not Tonga eruption aftermath

·3 min read

The claim: Images show dead fish washed up on Tonga's coast after a volcanic eruption

After an underwater volcanic eruption near Tonga, thousands of social media users shared photos purportedly showing the aftermath.

A Facebook post that accrued over 400 reactions within four days features three photos of dead fish on a beach.

"Continue to pray for Tonga. Dead fish washed ashore on Tonga after the volcanic eruptions," reads the caption.

Similar posts with the same images have been shared over 1,500 times since the Jan. 15 eruption.

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The situation in Tonga prompted the rapid spread of misinformation online. Independent fact-checking organizations have debunked videos falsely claiming to show footage of the tsunami and volcanic eruption.

In fact, those videos depicted events in Indonesia and Italy. Similarly, the images of dead fish in the Facebook post show beaches in Uruguay, Australia and Fiji.

USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user who posted the images for comment.

A handout photo taken on Jan. 7, 2022 and made available by 2022 Planet Labs PBC on Jan. 17, 2022 shows the eruption on the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano.
A handout photo taken on Jan. 7, 2022 and made available by 2022 Planet Labs PBC on Jan. 17, 2022 shows the eruption on the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano.

Images show other countries

There are three images in the Facebook post. None of them show Tonga.

The first one shows a cluster of dead fish on a beach. According to Spanish newspaper El País, the picture was taken in Uruguay in 2015, when more than 200 tons of dead fish appeared on the beaches of Montevideo and Canelones.

The second image is a close-up of dead fish on another beach. The small fish emerged on a beach in Buddina, Australia, in September 2015, according to local news outlet The Courier Mail. The image was taken by Buddina resident Susan Sheard during a morning walk.

More: The tremendous explosion and impact of the Tonga volcano, explained

The third image in the post depicts a group of live, red crabs on the sand. The Agence France-Presse reported the picture was taken by Aisea Kai'tu in Yadua village, on Fiji's Gau Island. Kai'tu posted the image along with several others Jan. 15.

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Real images of Tonga after the volcanic eruption and tsunami waves show infrastructure damage and ash blankets that covered homes and buildings. USA TODAY could find no images of dead fish washed up on beaches.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that images show dead fish washed up on Tonga's coast after a volcanic eruption. The images in the post were taken in three different countries: Australia, Uruguay and Fiji. Two photos of dead fish are from 2015, while the image of the crabs in Fiji is from January.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Tonga eruption aftermath not pictured in viral images

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