This story was first published on January 12th, 2005.
This message claims that an attached photo depicts the 2004 Asian tsunami about to engulf a city. Various versions of the message, all featuring the same image, have circulated since soon after the tsunami hit on December 26, 2004.
Perhaps because of the compelling nature of the image and the devastating event it supposedly depicts, I still receive enquiries about it, many years after it first appeared online.
A number of people who have submitted this message and picture have wondered why they have not seen such a graphic portrayal of the tsunami in any credible news reports. If real, such an image would surely be featured in print publications and on news websites the world over.
Of course, the reason why the image has not made it to legitimate news media is that it is a fake. It is the end result of a digital manipulation in which a photograph of a city has been combined with a photograph of a normal sized wave breaking on a beach.
In fact, the city shown in the picture is not in Asia and was not hit by the 2004 tsunami. Instead, the image depicts Antofagasta City in the South American nation of Chile. The following YouTube video shows the same scene as that depicted in the fake picture:
And, for the record, here are some reasons why the image can be dismissed as fake:
The wave in the picture appears to be as high as a multi-story building. Although the Asian tsunami was incredibly powerful and destructive, there are no reports of the wave reaching such towering heights. The height of the waves varied depending on where they breached the shore, but satellite images reveal that they may have reached up to ten meters in some areas.
While a wave ten meters high is mind-boggling enough, the wave depicted in the fake image is clearly many time that height.
The text that accompanies the fake image varies in its details. Some versions claim that a tourist in a high-rise building took the picture. Others claim the image is security camera footage. In some versions, the city is identified as simply being on “Indonesia’s Coast”. Others claim that the city is actually Phuket in Thailand.
Wrong part of the world:
The image shows vehicles travelling on the right side of the road. In both Indonesia and Thailand, vehicles are driven on the left side of the road. This indicates that the city is actually located in another part of the world.
An example of the message
This picture is not a fake. It appears to have been taken from a hi-rise building window in downtown Phuket Thailand. The power of nature is hard to comprehend, especially the destructiveness of water.
Take a look; it is the best picture I have seen so far.
We have all seen the pictures on TV but I don’t think any of us really understand how big or how bad this wave was. If you look at this picture that was taken right before the wave hit, it will send a chill down your spine. Just look at the top right of the picture and compare the incoming wave compared to the size of the building it is about to hit.