On June 15, a violent explosion outside a kindergarten in the city of Fengxian in China’s eastern Jiangsu province killed eight people and left a further 65 injured.
Bodies of young children and adults were seen strewn across the pavement in videos and photographs released by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the communist party.
(Warning: Graphic Video)
RTDD was alerted to the story from curated breaking news lists and ran wide keyword searches in Chinese on Twitter, Facebook and local social network Weibo.
We noticed a video shared widely purporting to have caught the exact moment of the blast.
The video shows a busy street, bustling with pedestrians and street vendors when a strong explosion emits a large fireball.
Some journalists with considerable social media followings shared the video while some news organizations published the video in their coverage of the explosion.
RTDD began working to verify this video, suspecting something was amiss.
Using the video released by Chinese state media for comparison, we found that lighting in the two videos did not match.
Also, the scene in the two videos did not match up in several different ways.
Google Maps does not have streetview in China and Baidu’s streetview doesn’t provide an exact visual of the kindergarten’s location.
Using both applications, we could not locate the three tall buildings in the background of the video.
Instead, we focused on establishing the position of the camera to see if the buildings could have fitted in the video frame.
We established that this frame did not match with the topography of Fengxian.
People.cn, a Chinese news organization, reported that the video was from an incident that took place in the city of Baoding in Hubei province.
The website reported that the explosion took place near the city’s North China Electric Power University campus.
RTDD delved further into this report.
Using Baidu’s streetview feature, we confirmed that the video was from the explosion in Baoding and was not, in fact, related to the incident at the kindergarten in Jiangsu province.
The three buildings in the background, the distinctive street lamps and the small shops on the side of the tree-lined road tally with the landmarks seen in the video falsely described as being of the kindergarten explosion.
Searching Chinese websites and using local Chinese satellite mapping services, we were able to trace the topography in the video against the two cities where the video was reportedly recorded.
Baidu maps provided the key, helping us to debunk the video shared by numerous news organizations.