VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Video showing Taal volcano on ‘Alert Level 5’ NOT TRUE

A now-defunct YouTube Live video, currently still being shared on social media, is falsely claiming to show live footage of Taal volcano on Alert Level 5.

Verified YouTube channel THEREALPAX, which mostly posts about online games, streamed from Jan. 14 to 23 the fake video report which meshed together in a collage five different clips, presented as live shots of the volcano in Batangas. Its headline currently reads, “Taal Volcano Eruption Philippines Live Update & COVERAGE.”

While the footage can no longer be viewed on YouTube, its link remains shareable on social media and bears the headline, “*MASSIVE ERUPTION IMMINENT LEVEL 5 * Taal Volcano Eruption Philippines Live Update & COVERAGE.” It also features a thumbnail showing lava glowing in a crater at nighttime.

The latest volcano bulletin from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) released on Jan. 24 states that the Taal volcano remains to be on Alert Level 4 -- not 5 -- which means a hazardous eruption might take place within hours to days. Alert Level 5, the highest alert level status on Phivolcs’ scale, means that the hazardous eruption is already happening.

The thumbnail used by THEREALPAX in its fake video, as seen on Facebook, is not lava from an eruption in Taal Volcano but the lava lake in Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was posted online in April 2019 by travel blogger Kesi Irvin.

Additionally, the five clips shown in THEREALPAX’s video while it was still live were grabbed from different news reports and netizens’ online posts that were all just looped and made to play nonstop. These include:

  • a Jan. 22 CNN Philippines report on the government’s efforts in moving residents out of the areas considered to be within Taal volcano’s Permanent Danger Zone;
  • a Jan. 17 aerial footage of Taal volcano island uploaded on Facebook by Al Jazeera correspondent Jamela Alindogan; and
  • a netizen’s footage of lightning captured amid Taal’s eruption on Jan. 12, uploaded that day on Instagram.

One clip that shows a landscape view of Taal volcano appears to be from a Jan. 14 Facebook Live video of ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) of the volcano as seen from Talisay, Batangas.

Although the source of the last clip cannot be determined, no official video or media coverage of the Taal volcano eruption matches the footage on THEREALPAXI’s video, which shows a close-up shot of massive volumes of lava.

The fake video also featured a graphic that defines “Alert Level 5”; a reverse image search revealed it was cropped from a Philippine Red Cross infographic published on Jan. 12.

A clock counting down to “another massive eruption” that would happen “in the next hour or so,” but which restarts every ten minutes, is also included in the video.

The fake “live” video began running on YouTube two days after Taal volcano exhibited heightened activity, spewing volumes of ash and steam and causing numerous volcanic earthquakes. As of this writing, the video has already been viewed around 450,000 times by netizens.

THEREALPAX’s Youtube channel was created in February 2012.

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