Fake News: Residential Building NOT In Wuhan, NOT Set Ablaze To Control Coronavirus Spread

Fact Check

  • by: Ryan Cooper
Fake News: Residential Building NOT In Wuhan, NOT Set Ablaze To Control Coronavirus Spread

Was a massive residential building in Wuhan, China, set ablaze to try to control the spread of the novel coronavirus? No, that's not true: The fire broke out at a building in another Chinese city, Chongqing, which is about 850 kilometers - or roughly 528 miles - from Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Authorities said that the fire had no connection to the coronavirus, according to AFP.

The claim originated from an article published by intellihub.com on February 10, 2020, titled "Wuhan's Jiaxing Garden set ablaze with tenants inside, government blames arson" (archived here). It opened:

WUHAN, China (INTELLIHUB) -- Jiaxing Garden on Guitain Fourth Road was set ablaze on Monday as drastic measures have been taken in an attempt to control the deadly bioengineered Coronavirus spread.

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:

Wuhan's Jiaxing Garden set ablaze with tenants inside, government blames arson

Tenants burn to death as highrise burns

The story claimed that someone undertook "drastic measures" to try to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, which as of February 14, 2020, has killed almost 1,400 people, according to CBS News.

The site blamed arson for the fire and said it happened at Wuhan's Jiaxing Garden. However, this story is entirely made up. A search of matching thumbnails for the video embedded in the story revealed the fire happened on January 1, 2020, in Chongqing. No casualties were reported, according to one site.

AFP debunked a different claim, which had suggested that the fire was caused by the use of alcohol disinfectant in Wuhan. According to AFP's fact check:

The claim is false; fire officials in Wuhan and Chongqing, a city in Sichuan province, clarified the video in fact shows a fire ignited by a cigarette at a residential block in Chongqing; Baidu Maps' street view imagery of the address provided by authorities shows the same building seen in the video.

This map illustrates the driving distance between Wuhan and Chongqing:

According to AFP, authorities said there was no connection between the fire in Sichuan province and the novel coronavirus.

The video has been widely shared on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, all with claims falsely linking it to the coronavirus outbreak.

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 is our most recent article mentioning 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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