Video of explosion is from Chile, not Maui

17 August 2023
What was claimed

New footage shows what appears to be a beam of light hitting a building and causing an explosion on Maui, Hawaii, ahead of the fires.

Our verdict

This video was actually taken in a suburb of Santiago, Chile, in May, and shows an exploding transformer.

Posts on Twitter and Facebook claim to show “new footage” of “what allegedly happened” on Maui, Hawaii, against the backdrop of the recent deadly fires on the island. 

The video clips show what appears to be a beam of light firing down at a building on a busy city street, followed by the flash of an explosion. 

The implication of the posts seems to be that the fires on Maui, which at the time of writing are confirmed to have killed at least 106 people, were caused by this incident. 

However this video was not taken in Hawaii. As other fact checkers have written, it actually shows a transformer explosion in a suburb of Santiago, Chile, in May

Slowed down frame-by-frame, the beam of light appears after the initial explosion—indicating that it is a reflection of the sudden flash rather than anything causing the incident. 

These social media posts echo other viral claims that have appeared online in the wake of the devastating fires on Maui, suggesting that the blazes were started deliberately using directed energy weapons—systems that use technologies such as lasers to cause disruptive, damaging or destructive effects on equipment or facilities.

Baseless claims about directed energy weapons have gone viral in recent days, and we have checked other posts that use misleading images following the disaster on Maui. 

Major news stories such as the fires can quickly become the subject of misinformation online, with false claims being difficult to correct after they have been shared widely on social media. This pattern is extremely common, with recent examples including multiple false claims about riots in France, the February earthquake in Turkey and Syria and the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Misleading images and videos are some of the most common kinds of misinformation we see online, but they can sometimes be hard to spot. It’s always worth checking if social media images and videos show what the post says they do before you share them—we have written a guide on how to do so here and here.

Image courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard Hawai'i Pacific District 14

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