2018 video of Mount Sinabung shared as recent volcanic eruption at Mount Merapi

By: Chandan Borgohain
December 11 2023

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2018 video of Mount Sinabung shared as recent volcanic eruption at Mount Merapi

An old video showing an eruption of Mount Sinabung has been falsely linked to the recent eruption of Mount Merapi. (Source: X/Facebook/Screenshots/Modified by Logically Facts)


The Verdict False

The video is from February 2018, and captures the eruption of Mount Sinabung in Indonesia.

Claim ID d18898b6

Twenty-two people have reportedly been killed after Mount Merapi, one of the most active volcanoes located on Sumatra island in Indonesia, erupted on December 3. According to BBC, the volcano spewed a 3km ash cloud over several surrounding villages, stranding and injuring 75 hikers who were in the area during the eruption. 

What is the claim?

Against this backdrop, several social media users have shared a video (archived here and here) of a gigantic cloud of smoke ascending into the sky, claiming that it captures the recent eruption of Mount Merapi.

Screenshots of social media posts sharing the viral video. (Source: X/Screenshots)

One such X post (archived here) reads, "In Indonesia, Mount Marapi erupted again, killing 11 out of the 75 local climbers in the area. Officials have reported at least 12 more missing. Stay tuned." The post had garnered over 59,000 views at the time of publishing.

Assamese news channel Prag News also carried the viral clip in a news report. The channel posted the video on its Facebook page (archived here) on December 4 and wrote, "11 mountaineers killed by a volcanic eruption (translated from Assamese)."

Screenshot of the Prag News Facebook post carrying the viral clip. (Source: Facebook/Screenshot)

However, the viral video was captured in 2018, and shows the eruption of Mount Sinabung in Indonesia.

What did we find?

A reverse-image search on a keyframe of the video led us to a slightly longer clip shared on X showing the same visuals. This clip was shared on February 19, 2018, by Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the late spokesperson of Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency. 


Comparison of a screenshot from the viral video and the original visuals shared on X. (Source: X/Sceenshot/Modified by Logically Facts)

According to Nugroho's post, the video captures an eruption in Mount Sinabung, another active volcano on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The Google translation of his post written in Indonesian read, "The enormity of the eruption of Mount Sinabung. The column height is up to 5 km, accompanied by hot clouds sliding up to 4.9 km. The sound thundered. This is the first time an eruption has been accompanied by a roar since 2014-2018. There were no fatalities. All residents in the red zone have long been evacuated. #volcano #Sinabung”

The video was also shared by the Jakarta-based news outlet Radio Elshinta on X on February 19, 2018. Radio Elshinta's post also mentioned that the eruption took place on Mount Sinabung.

On February 20, 2018, The Guardian reported about the eruption of Mount Sinabung, located about 1,900km northwest of Jakarta, and stated that it was the largest eruption of that year. The report used a photograph captured by Endro Rusharyanto for AFP/Getty Images that shows a landscape and plume of smoke—similar to the visuals seen in the viral video.

A photograph taken after the Mount Sinabung's volcanic eruption in February 2018. (Source: The Guardian/Screenshot)

We also found that the video in question had gone viral earlier as well, claiming to show visuals of Mount Merapi's previous eruption. AFP had debunked claims that linked the video to Merapi's eruption in March. Mount Merapi is one of the 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia and has been prone to seismic disruptions in the past.

The verdict

The viral video has been available online since February 2018, and it captures an eruption of Mount Sinabung in Indonesia. The video has been falsely linked to Mount Merapi's eruption. Therefore, we have marked this claim as false.

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