The COVID-19 crisis is inflicting unprecedented amount of suffering around the world with nearly 80,000 dead and a total of 1.35 million infected with the virus as on 8th April 2020 according to the WHO dashboard, setup to monitor the global situation. With the number of dead mounting and special requests to cremate all dead bodies who were infected with the deadly virus, the process of disposing of the dead has become taxing on several world governments where the death toll is highest.
In this backdrop, a video is being circulated predominantly on WhatsApp and other messaging platforms showing dead bodies being washed up on sea-shore with the accompanying text: Important Notice: Some Countries Thrown CovID-19 affected dead bodies to sea, be careful eating sea foods. Incidentally, the post’s text is translated in Sinhala and Tamil as well. The WhatsApp forward message can be seen below along with the video.
Below is a screenshot of a post shared on Facebook, containing the same message.
Since we know that all official communication requires cremation of the dead COVID-19 victims, this video looked suspicious and hence we carried out an investigation to find out the truth behind the video.
Our first level search with the use of keywords indicated that Sri Lanka was not the only country circulating this video that claimed that dead bodies were being thrown into the sea as a result of COVID-19. Given below is the same video circulated on Twitter outside of Sri Lanka. The caption given by the user attempts to invoke moral panic with the use of language like The world is really coming to an end and Dear God, please intervene:
Further searches on YouTube (where a massive library of such videos are housed) and other searches with screen grabs of the video all indicated that while the video itself is authentic, it was published on several occasions prior to the current COVID19 outbreak. The most recent appearance of the post, before its present viral showing on social platforms was in December 2019 by a Gambian political website forgambia.com claiming it to be associated with a backwater disaster which claimed 30 lives.
A prior appearance of the video in June 2019 was published on YouTube with the title “Mediterranean Sea Becomes A Cemetery For African Immigrants” The dramatic headline is accompanied by descriptive text, and here is an extract from the description. “It’s heartbreaking to see images of dead Africans brought to the shoreline of the sea as captured above. Africa is the richest continent pregnant with rich mineral resources but our people are dying in the sea daily because of the rat race to Europe to make a living off menial jobs!!! Africa must rise to stop the dangerous Trans Mediterranean voyage to save the black race from these catastrophic consequences of early death!”
Yet a deeper dive into the video’s contents proved that the video was originally published several years before by Euronews in August 2014 with the headline Dozens of migrant bodies are washed ashore in Libya. The video, which is still available of the Euronews YouTube channel is exactly the same as those previously shown and was published with the accompanying text “Amid tragic scenes on a Libyan beach, bodies of would-be migrants have been washed ashore. More than 100 have been recovered by the Libyan authorities. They are thought to be from a shipwreck at sea last week. One member of the coast guard said dozens more bodies could still turn up. In the absence of documentation, rescue workers are unable to make a list of the victims or establish their nationalities.” A link to the expanded story published by Euronews for further reading is also available at the end of the YouTube video.
From our investigation it is evident that a video published multiple times before is being circulated yet again in association with COVID19. In fact, even the original posting of the video by Euronews in 2014 claims they are unable to even identify the nationalities of the dead bodies in the contents of the video. The original video was captured and published in 2014 when dozens of migrant bodies were washed ashore in Libya. Hence this incident has no relation with COVID-19 and it is safe to conclude that the claim is false.
Title:No, These are not deceased COVID19 victims washed ashore!Fact Check By: Sathyajith Subasinghe