CGI video of tornado and lightning passed off as Storm Daniel in Libya

By: Umme Kulsum
September 15 2023

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CGI video of tornado and lightning passed off as Storm Daniel in Libya

Screenshots of claims made online. (Source: X/Screenshots/ Modified by Logically Facts)


The Verdict False

This video is created using CGI. The video was online before Storm Daniel struck Derna and Benghazi in Libya.

Claim ID b034c499

What’s the claim?

Amid the devastating floods in Libya caused by Storm Daniel, misinformation is circulating on social media platforms, with images and videos being misattributed to the recent floods. 

A video showing a tornado and lightning behind a building is being widely shared online with the claims that it is from Libya. One such X (formerly Twitter) post (archive here) was captioned, “#Libya The strongest tornado "Daniel" filmed in Libya. The epicenter of the tornado in the city of Benghazi has been conquered. Tornado Daniel earlier caused major flooding in Greece and Bulgaria.” The video was viewed 1,00,000 times with over 150 reposts when writing this story. Other archived X posts can be seen here, here, and here.

The same video is also viral on Facebook (archive here) with the caption, “Strongest tornado named 'Daniel' filmed in Libya, with the epicenter in Benghazi. Tornado Daniel caused major flooding in Greece and Bulgaria before hitting Libya. Over 2,000 people have died in the badly affected city of Derna.” 

Screenshot of claims made online (Source: X)

However, the video has been digitally manipulated. 

What we found

A reverse image search led us to the same video shared on TikTok by the user named @rtsarovvideo or Rostyslav Tsarov on September 4, 2023, with the caption, “Tornado Damage in Coastal Town.” The bio on his TikTok account says, “Videos real or edited.” His TikTok account's bio reads, "Videos real or edited," and links to a YouTube channel. The account defines its content as a combination of actual and edited films of extreme weather and natural disasters.

Storm Daniel hit central and eastern Mediterranean areas on September 4, 2023, but made landfall in Libya on September 10, 2023, causing severe weather conditions, including strong winds and sudden heavy rainfall. The viral video was on the internet before Storm Daniel made landfall in Libya.

Logically Facts also discovered the viral video's original version on Shutterstock using a reverse image search. Although heavy wind and rain are evident, no tornado or lightning can be seen in the clip, as claimed in the viral post. This confirms that the tornado and lightning have been digitally added to the video.

Comparison of the uncropped video from Shutterstock and the viral video (Source: Shutterstock, X/Screenshots)

Shutterstock credited “Cinematic Storm Footage” as the video contributor. We checked the profile of the said user on the platform, which was linked to its X, Facebook, and other social media handles. On X, their account called Tornado Trackers, put up a post on September 11, 2023, where they mentioned, "This is (clearly) a CGI tornado placed into our footage of 2016's Hurricane Matthew." 

They had provided a link to a YouTube video, which was uploaded on March 8, 2017. At 59:26, one can see the same viral video without the tornado and the reference note below mentions the date October 7, 2016. 

Screenshot of the YouTube video. (Source: Tornado Trackers/Screenshot)

Annie Lab, an on-campus fact-checking initiative in Hong Kong, geolocated the video to the South Beach Plaza Mall in Jacksonville, Florida. 

The verdict

This viral video was uploaded online before Storm Daniel reached Libya, and the tornado and lightning were added digitally. This is not a video showing a real tornado. Therefore, we have marked this claim as false.

(Update: The story has been updated to reflect that the video is from October 2016 and shows the South Beach Plaza Mall in Jacksonville, Florida.) 

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We rely on information to make meaningful decisions that affect our lives, but the nature of the internet means that misinformation reaches more people faster than ever before