Fake News: NO Proof That High-Rise Buildings Have Become Human Incinerators To Combat Coronavirus

Fact Check

  • by: Ryan Cooper
Fake News: NO Proof That High-Rise Buildings Have Become Human Incinerators To Combat Coronavirus

Have high-rise buildings in China become human incinerators to combat the novel coronavirus outbreak? No, that's not true: The website reporting this angle uses a questionable, unverified source on Twitter to make several far-fetched claims. The facts in the story do not substantiate the allegations made in the headline.

The claims originated from an article published by Intellihub on February 13, 2020, titled "Scores of fires burn throughout China: Highrise buildings become human incinerators to combat CoViD-19" (archived here). It opened:

CHINA (INTELLIHUB) -- Dozens upon dozens of residency highrise buildings and other structures have been set on fire throughout China presumably in an attempt to contain the deadly CoViD-19 outbreak which has officially on record killed hundreds and unofficially may have killed over 50,000.

"There are so many fires in China right now," Harry Chen PhD explained in a recent Tweet.

Chen went on to post video footage from the region.

Users on social media only saw this:

Scores of fires burn throughout China: Highrise buildings become human incinerators to combat CoViD-19

Residents in China are being cremated alive in their own homes, government blames arson

Rather than state or source facts to back up the claims being made in the headline, the author said dozens upon dozens of buildings and structures had been set on fire presumably to contain the coronavirus.


In the opening paragraph, the author is couching the claims that are stated outright as facts in the headline.

The subheader asserts that residents in China are being "cremated alive" - an oxymoron - in their own homes, and the government blames arson. There is no official reporting that cites Chinese government officials making any such assertions.

The story cited a Twitter user who goes by the name of Harry Chen PhD, but he offers no affiliation in his bio to lend any credibility for what he is tweeting. The photo in his avatar has been obscured with digital drawing tools. He claims to be in China. (China bans the use of Twitter, though people can circumvent that with virtual private networks or VPNs.)

Chen has tweeted several photos of fires in buildings and is suggesting this is linked to the coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China. As of February 14, 2020, the virus has killed at least 1,500 people, according to The New York Times.

However, the videos do not prove that the high-rise buildings are deliberately being set on fire to incinerate bodies. According to Popular Mechanics, even after a body is cremated in a typical chamber, which is heated up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the bones are pulverized to small fragments, which resemble ashes. A house or apartment fire would not necessarily accomplish this.

Further, there is no evidence that these videos were shot recently and no proof of the exact location of the fires.

The author of the story is suggesting that "dozens upon dozens" of buildings are ablaze throughout China to contain the coronavirus. This claim is nonsensical.

The Intellihub site is known for spreading disinformation. Here is a story we debunked earlier today.

NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalists to rank the reliability of websites, describes intellihub.com as:

A website that has promoted false and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak and the Sept. 11 attacks.

According to NewsGuard, the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.

We wrote about intellihub.com before. Here are our most recent articles that mention the site:

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.

  Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper, a staff writer and fact-checker for Lead Stories, is the former Director of Programming at CNN International, where he helped shape the network's daily newscasts broadcast to more than 280 million households around the world. He was based at the network's Los Angeles Bureau. There, he managed the team responsible for a three-hour nightly program, Newsroom LA.

Formerly, he worked at the headquarters in Atlanta, and he spent four years at the London bureau. An award-winning producer, Cooper oversaw the network's Emmy Award-winning coverage of the uprising in Egypt in 2011. He also served as a supervising producer during much of the network's live reporting on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict in 2006, for which CNN received an Edward R. Murrow Award.

Read more about or contact Ryan Cooper

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