​VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Reports on Middle Eastern countries to be hit by calamities FALSE

A viral Facebook (FB) post is spreading a false advisory that a string of natural disasters would hit five Arab states, three of which host large numbers of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

On Oct. 31, a netizen published as their FB profile picture a photo of what appears to be a satellite view of a typhoon forming over the Arabian Sea.

The accompanying caption contained a disclaimer that the publisher was “not spreading the fake news.” It warned that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates(UAE) were going to be hit by a super typhoon and a magnitude eight to nine earthquake which will induce a huge tsunami and a massive landslide.

Ibinalita ngayon lang sa ibang bansa ang nakita sa satellite na posibleng tamaan ng pinakamalakas na Typhoon, Earthquake(Magnitude 8-9) na sanhi ng pagkakaroon ng pinakamalakas na Tsunami at Landslide ito ay tatama sa Saudi Arabia, Kuwait,Oman,Yemen,UAE at sa iba pang bahagi ng Arab Country. Totoo man or hindi dapat parin nating ipagdasal ang kaligtasan ng mga taong naninirahan sa nasabing mga bansa lalo na sa ating mga kababayan. PS: We are not spreading the fake news but the main point on this post is para mapag ingat yung mga tao sa bawat kalamidad. Pwede nating isipin or sabihing FAKE NEWS pero mas mabuti yung handa tayo at alam natin yung posibleng kalamidad na darating sa atin at wag makakalimot sa taas ALLAH (s.w)... -Allahu A'lam (sic)

(Just now, it has been reported overseas what was seen in a satellite as a possible super typhoon, earthquake (magnitude 8-9) that would cause a strong tsunami and a landslide, which would hit Saudi Arabia, Kuwait,Oman,Yemen,UAE and other parts of the Arab Country. True or not, we should still pray for the safety of the people living in the said countries, specially that of our fellow Filipinos. PS: We are not spreading the fake news but the main point on this post is for us to tell people to be careful. We can think or say that this is fake news but it is better if we are ready and if we know the possible calamities which could happen and let us not forget the one above, Allah (s.w)... -Allahu A’lam (sic) )

A simple FB search showed two similar posts published earlier the same day. Both carry the same photo and caption as the first post, except for the change in the magnitude of the “possible earthquake” -- from 8 to 9, to magnitude 6 to 7.2 The ending phrase was also modified to “Lagi nating tandaan na LIGTAS ANG MAY ALAM (We should always remember that those who are aware will be safe)!”

These two earlier posts carry two additional satellite images of a typhoon. A reverse search of one of the photos showed that it is an image of Super Cyclone Kyarr captured Oct. 27 by satellite Sentinel 3 of Copernicus, the European Union’s Earth Observation Programme.

According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Cyclone Kyarr became a very severe cyclonic storm on Oct. 26, and further strengthened into a super cyclonic storm the next day. The last weather bulletin released Oct. 31 by the IMD on the cyclone stated that it has already weakened to just a cyclonic storm. News reports have called it the strongest cyclone over the Arabian Sea in over a decade.

While there were various reports of massive flooding in Arab states caused by the cyclone, there were no official tsunami and landslide warnings released by authorities in those countries, as well as news reports published by legitimate media organizations.

An advisory on the possibility of a strong quake striking the five countries also does not exist because predicting when, where and how strong an earthquake will exactly hit is “not yet possible,” according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Scientists can only determine the probability of earthquakes happening in a time window, through the use of historical data and hazard mapping.

Saudi Arabia hosts the most number of OFWs around the world -- 24.3% of the 2.3 million Filipinos working abroad from April to September 2018, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. It said 15.7% worked in the UAE while 5.7% are in Kuwait in the same period.

The three FB posts on the false calamity warning, which circulated online the same day a magnitude 6.6 earthquake hit Mindanao, got an aggregated total of around 56,500 shares and 11,300 reactions.


(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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