VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Local reposts of ‘red flood’ photos from Indonesia NEED CONTEXT

A set of photos showing a village in Central Java, Indonesia inundated with blood-red water is circulating this week among Filipino Facebook (FB) users. While the three local online posts that carry the photos correctly identify the location of the flooding, the lack of explanation on the circumstances surrounding the incident has led readers to inaccurately speculate.

The images feature the Indonesian village of Jenggot near Pekalongan city, which recently experienced flooding caused by heavy rains. The water turned crimson after it mixed with dyes from a nearby batik factory according to a Feb. 6 Reuters article.

The report said Pekalongan is a city known for crafting the cloth, the patterns of which are traditionally made using wax and water-based dyes. Several photos and videos of the event can be found in news reports.

All three local FB posts — one by a netizen on his personal account on Feb. 6, and two by FB users in the pages Oh, that's a fact and —- DYK?; on Feb. 7 — bore captions stating “red flood” and the Pekalongan location. Each featured four to five photos showing a house and people wading through red, shin-deep waters.

Despite news reports on the flooding, the Filipino FB user who published the photos on his personal account said in the comments section that the incident is a “mystery” which “could not yet be explained.”

Some noted that the photos reminded them of a “blood river” mentioned in the Bible, while one claimed the photos were edited. Others joked that the striking color was caused by “strawberry juice mix,” “period blood,” or “food coloring.”

The images are traceable to a post on Feb. 6 by an Indonesian man in the public FB group PEKALONGAN INFO. Its caption, translated from Bahasa Indonesia, read: “Flooding, red color, guys, it's really pekalongan…”

(It was also reuploaded by another Indonesian man in the FB group We Are ASEAN, cited as the source of two of the local FB posts.)

An Indonesian official has confirmed that the unique color of the flood did come from the dyes used in making batik, according to a Feb. 7 Agence France-Presse report.

“[The factory workers] did not dump the dye on purpose, but several home industries were flooded and the dye packages were carried away by the water,” head of Pekalongan disaster relief Dimas Arga Yudha told AFP.

The three posts that need context garnered over 800 total FB interactions. FB group Oh, that’s a fact was created in March 2020, —- DYK?; in August 2020.


(Editor's Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)

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