Fake Videos of Hurricane Irma Have Fooled Many, Even Donald Trump’s Social Media Guru

Hurricane Irma sign
A sign on a business reads "Be Prepared Go Away Irma" as people prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Irma in Miami on September 6. Joe Raedle/Getty

Hurricane Irma has wrought very real destruction on millions of homes and lives throughout the Caribbean and United States over the past week—but many of the videos shared during the storm were not.

Since Irma's landfall in the Caribbean island of Barbuda last Wednesday, misleading or outdated footage has been shared widely on social media, much of which has claimed to depict its impact on various locations.

Newsweek has rounded up and debunked some of the worst-offending videos.

1. Flooding at Miami International Airport

The White House director of social media and a close aide to President Donald Trump, Dan Scavino Jr., shared a video on Sunday that purported to show heavy flooding at Miami International Airport. “Sharing #HurricaneIrma on social media with President @realDonaldTrump & @VP Pence hourly. Here is Miami International Airport. STAY SAFE!” Scavino wrote.

Unfortunately for Scavino, the footage was actually taken on August 31 and was of Mexico City Airport during Tropical Storm Linda, which caused widespread damage in the Mexican capital. Miami International Airport called out Scavino on its Twitter account, and the Trump aide quickly deleted the video.







2. Funnel Cloud in Florida

A video shared across social media featured an eerie howling soundtrack and purported to show a funnel of cloud forming during Hurricane Irma. Some users in Florida shared the footage alongside apocalyptic messages such as “BRACE YOURSELF, IT HAS BEGUN!”

But the video actually comes from northwest Mexico's Chihuahua state, which was hit by a tornado last May. The original footage depicted a supercell thunderstorm, or a storm with a rotating updraft. It was picked up at the time by The Washington Post under the headline: “This storm in Mexico is probably what the end of the world would look like.”

3. Barbuda After Irma Made Landfall

A dramatic video showing intense winds sweeping debris into the air and sending huge tree branches flying along an urban road, was shared by many social media users as purported footage from the Caribbean island of Barbuda, the first to be hit by Irma.

While Irma did cause massive destruction to Barbuda—damaging 90 percent of its buildings, according to the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda—it was not captured in this video. The footage actually shows a street in Dolores, a city in western Uruguay, which was battered by a tornado in April 2016. The tornado reduced buildings to rubble and killed at least four people in the city of 20,000, the BBC reported.

4. Building Collapse in St. Maarten

Shocking footage of an entire building falling from its foundation into a river of mud was shared by some who claimed it was the collapse of an apartment block in St. Maarten, the Dutch side of the Caribbean island of St. Martin, during Hurricane Irma.

But the footage actually shows a five-story building falling into the Ziqu River in Tibet in July. Heavy rainfall caused the river to surge and erode the riverbank, eating into the building’s foundations and eventually causing its collapse.