Video shows river erosion in China, not Turkey earthquake aftermath

February 21, 2023 GMT

CLAIM: Video shows a fracture in Earth’s crust created by recent earthquakes in Turkey.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. While the severe earthquakes in Turkey this month did rupture the Earth’s surface, this video shows river erosion in China’s Loess Plateau, which is unrelated to earthquakes.

THE FACTS: The clip spreading widely on Twitter this week features aerial footage of a deep fissure in the Earth, with plateaus visible on either side.

“Turkey: a new earthquake of magnitude 6.4 has just occurred,” reads one Twitter post with the video. “This’s the fracture of earth’s crust after earthquake.”

But a reverse image search reveals the footage appeared on YouTube in 2022, long before this month’s earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. The videos, captioned in Chinese, identified the clips as showing Pinglu County in China’s Shanxi Province.

Satellite imagery of this region of northern China matches the geographical features in the footage. Long, wide fissures dot the landscape, and specific features from the video circulating online are visible.

For example, a distinctive building with a blue roof tucked in one of the fissures in the widely shared online footage can be seen in Google Earth images, and surrounding features such as road patterns also match.

Experts also told The Associated Press that the video showed the Loess Plateau, not Turkey.

“The cracks are definitely not related to the recent earthquakes in Turkey,” said Steve Gao, professor of geophysics at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. “They are from Pinglu County in Shanxi Province.”

An Yin, a professor of geology at the University of California, Los Angeles, agreed, saying the video showed fluvial incision of the Chinese Loess Plateau.

Yin, Gao and Columbia University geophysicist Michael Steckler all agreed that the fissures in this part of China were created by river erosion, not earthquakes.

“The Loess plateau is a thick layer of windblown dust from the last ice age that erodes fairly easily,” said Steckler, a research professor in marine geology and geophysics.

Some of these eroded areas are particularly straight because the rivers that eroded them followed preexisting fractures in the Earth’s crust, which are quite straight in that region, said Gao.

It’s true that the recent earthquakes in Turkey created surface ruptures in the ground, Steckler said. Groups including the United States Geological Survey and British Centre for Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tectonics have documented the damage.

Such ruptures occur “during earthquakes when the ground surface breaks and shifts due to the movement of a fault,” the USGS said on its website.


This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.