Visuals of a transformer exploding in Chile shared as footage of Hawaii wildfire

By: Vivek J
August 18 2023

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Visuals of a transformer exploding in Chile shared as footage of Hawaii wildfire


The Verdict False

The video shows a power transformer exploding in Santiago, Chile. The incident predates the recent disaster in Hawaii.

Claim ID 5889d4d6


As rescue operations in Maui, Hawaii (locally spelled Hawai’i)— where at least 110 people have been killed in deadly wildfires that started on August 8— continue, several unrelated visuals have been linked to the disaster on social media. One such video was shared on X (formerly Twitter) with the caption, “Disturbing New FOOTAGE from Maui fires shows what allegedly happened.” The post, which included several hashtags related to the Hawaii wildfire, had over 375,000 views at the time of publishing. The same video has been shared in other posts with similar claims. Archives of such similar posts can be seen here and here.

Screenshot of the claim made on  X. (Source: X/ @ElonZuckerbergX) 

However, this video is not from Hawaii and is unrelated to the recent wildfires that wrecked the island.

In fact 

We analyzed one of the keyframes from the viral video and found several Facebook posts sharing the viral video. According to the Facebook posts, the video was from Chile. The caption of one such post shared on August 14, 2023, read, “Here’s a video of an actual Direct Energy Weapon (DEW) strike in Chile on May 26th 2023.” The post also contained hashtags like #lahaina #maui #hawaii #frontstreet #lahainafire #vigilattemaui #MauiFires, implying that something similar happened in Hawaii with the use of direct energy weapons—highly-focused ammunition, such as lasers, that can potentially cause a lot of damage and destruction.

Screengrabs of the Facebook posts linking the incident in Chile to direct energy weapons. (Source: Facebook/@Laurie Lewand, @Ed Winkler)

Taking cues from the Facebook videos, we researched recent incidents of explosions or fire in Chile in May. We came across a YouTube video of a news report uploaded on the official account of CHV Noticias— a Spanish news program that features on the Chilean television network Chilevisión. The video report showed the same incident captured in the viral clip but from a different angle. According to the report, the incident reportedly took place on May 26 in Macul commune, which is located in the central-eastern part of Santiago province.

The report, uploaded on May 30, also explains that when the visuals are viewed in slow motion, they clearly show sparking in a power transformer before the big blast. The report further quoted Humberto Verdejo, a doctorate holder in electrical engineering, saying that strong winds across Santiago might have resulted in tree branches coming in contact with the transformer resulting in the explosion. See below:

 Spanish language news report of transformer explosion. Source: YouTube

We also came across TikTok videos which were uploaded within a day of this video report being published. Thus, it is clear that the viral video predates the Hawaii wildfires and was filmed in Santiago. The explosion captured in the clip was caused by an exploding transformer, not direct energy weapons, as claimed by social media users.

The verdict

The video claiming to be from Hawaii is actually from the Chilean capital of Santiago. A power transformer exploded in the Macul commune in Santiago, prompting social media users to share several unfounded theories about the incident. Hence, we mark the claim false.

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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