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Images shared online make false claims about the country’s heatwave

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This summer, Italy is experiencing its worst drought and heat wave in 70 years. Amid the scorching conditions, some people are sharing photos and videos online that they claim show the effects of this extreme weather. In reality, these images, which have been in circulation since July 28, have been taken out of context.

If you only have a minute

  • Italy has been dealing with a major heat wave and drought since the beginning of July 2022.

  • On social networks, some Italians have shared a video of a bus in flames. But contrary to what these accounts claim, this fire has nothing to do with the current heat wave. It took place on April 16, 2022 after the failure of a methane-powered bus.

  • Other users posted an image with a rendered traffic light. Again, this photo is not related to the heat wave. The damage was caused by a scooter fire.

The fact check, in detail

Since the beginning of July, Italy has been experiencing a severe drought and high temperatures. On July 5, the government state of emergency declared in five regions in the north of the country. These measures are intended to counteract the lack of water, the risk of fires and the effects of the heat waves that have hit cities such as Rome, Bologna and Milan.

In this context, some Italians are sharing images online that supposedly show the consequences of these extreme weather events. However, among the real posts, other photos and videos that have garnered more than 15,000 views are factually inaccurate.

This bus did not catch fire due to the heat wave

For example, some Italian Facebook accounts have shared a video of a bus going up in flames. According to them, it is an Italian electric vehicle whose battery caught fire due to the high temperatures.

Screenshot of a video posted to Facebook on July 29 sharing false information about the heat wave in Italy.
Screenshot of a video posted to Facebook on July 29 sharing false information about the heat wave in Italy. © Facebook

What does this video really show? To find out, you’ll need to perform a reverse image search (see how to do it here). This search allows us to find the same video in an article published on April 16, 2022 by the local media Umbria.

However, this article tells us that this bus fire did not take place in recent weeks but on April 16, 2022 in the Perugia region, north of Rome. According to various local media, the bus, which runs on methane gas and not electricity, caught fire after a breakdown. These images have nothing to do with the heat wave in Italy.

Does the heat melt the traffic lights?

Other online posters claim, with images to back them up, that the high temperatures have even melted traffic lights, especially in Milan. But here too the photo has been taken out of context.

"In Milan, at an intersection on Viale Regina Margherita, the traffic light shows clear signs of melting," reads this tweet in French.
“In Milan, at an intersection on Viale Regina Margherita, the traffic light shows clear signs of melting,” this tweet reads in French. © Observers

To verify this, you can google the keywords “Viale Regina Margherita semaforo” – the location indicated by the accounts sharing this photo, as well as the translation, in Italian, of “traffic light”. This search returns the same image in an article published on August 12022 by Open, an Italian fact-checking point of sale.

Our colleagues from Open contacted the fire brigade of Milan. They were told that the melting signal was not caused by the heat, but by a scooter that caught fire on July 25 on the same Viale Regina Margherita. This version was confirmed by other images published on Instagram on July 29, 2022.

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