In this Tuesday, July 20, 2010 file photo released by China's Xinhua news agency, journalists take photos as flood water is released from the Three Gorges Dam's floodgates in Yichang, in central China's Hubei province. China's claims that its massive Three Gorges Dam can withstand the worst floods only seen every 10,000 years have lost mileage this week as the dam reached record higher water levers, with more torrential rains and typhoons expected in the country's worst flooding in a decade. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Cheng Min, File) ** NO SALES **

Dam lies: Three Gorges flood claim holds no water at all

AAP FactCheck May 13, 2021

The Statement

A social media post claims the Three Gorges Dam in China is “leaking” and has caused widespread flooding. The post includes footage and still images it claims “may or may not be” of destruction from the flooding, adding that it “certainly lines up big time with everything that’s happening right now”.

The Facebook post, shared on May 2, features four images of flooding events taken from a YouTube video. The images show a flooded intersection, muddy water flowing over rocks, submerged houses and trees, and a house amid earth churned up in a landslide.

The post’s caption claims the images are of events from the “3 Gorges Damm (sic) in China” and that “THE TIMING IS SPOT ON. FRESH OUT THIS MORNING. YESTERDAY THERE (sic) REPORTS OF IT LEAKING BIG TIME ALSO.”

The post links to a YouTube video in the comments section.The post also mentions “Q” and the “Trump team”, references to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory and former US president Donald Trump.

At the time of writing, the post had been viewed more than 27,000 times and has attracted more than 280 shares.

A post with images it links to the Three Gorges Dam
┬áA post claims to show evidence of China’s Three Gorges Dam “leaking”.┬á

The Analysis

None of the four images included in the post as evidence of the Three Gorges Dam recently “leaking” were taken in 2021, while two are not even from China. And while concerns were raised in 2020 about the safety of the dam during heavy rains, there is no proof of any concerns over its integrity in the period immediately leading up to the post.

In addition, the YouTube video featured in the post includes a voiceover which repeats, word for word, a 2013 BBC news report of a landslide in China’s Sichuan province. The article and the landslide are both unrelated to the Three Gorges Dam, located far to the east in China’s Hubei province.

There were no media reports in April or May 2021, prior to the post, of the Three Gorges Dam leaking or otherwise failing.

There were, however, reports in 2020 that aired concerns about the integrity of the dam during heavy rain and flooding. Social media users in China circulated satellite images “purporting to show the dam had bent and was at risk of breaking”, according to reports at the time. Chinese officials rejected the images and said the dam was secure. International news organisations including the Guardian and Japan’s Nikkei also reported on fears over the dam’s safety.

The YouTube video mentioned in the post’s comments was uploaded on April 26, 2021 to a channel called The Specifications, whose watermark appears in the Facebook post’s screenshots. It features a voiceover discussing the supposed toll of the flood in China, citing what is claimed to be news reports from the time. At no point does the voiceover refer to the Three Gorges Dam, although the video’s extended caption includes the words “3 Gorges Dam” and “China Flood 2020”.

AAP FactCheck traced the voiceover script to the July 2013 BBC article. The voiceover of the video repeats the article verbatim, except for the final two paragraphs, which are omitted. The article refers to rescue efforts carried out in the city of Dujiangyan, which is about 900km west of the Three Gorges Dam.

The images presented in the Facebook post and taken from the YouTube video are unrelated to any events in China in 2021.

The first image, of a flooded intersection, was taken by Getty Images photographer Ian Hitchcock during an unprecedented weather event in the Queensland city of Townsville in 2019 when 850,000 megalitres of rain fell into the Ross River Dam, exceeding its capacity. A slightly different version of the same scene was also captured by AAP photographer Andrew Rankin on the same date, February 4.

The second image features China’s second largest waterfall, the Hukou Waterfall in Shanxi Province. It was taken on July 5, 2020 by Xue Jun for Visual China Group via Getty Images and shows the waterfall dispensing flood waters.

The Hukou Waterfall is located along China’s second longest river, the Huang He – or Yellow River – while the Three Gorges Dam is located on the Yangtze River. Flooding at the Hukou Waterfalls that year was unrelated to the Three Gorges Dam as the two rivers run parallel in the north and south before connecting through the Great Canal further downstream from the falls.

The third image from the post, which shows floodwaters reaching the roofs of homes and tops of trees, is not from China. It was taken by photographer Tom Gilbert of the Tulsa World newspaper in the US state of Oklahoma.

The aerial image from May 23, 2019 shows homes in Sands Springs, Oklahoma inundated with flood waters from the Arkansas River following torrential rains in the Midwest.

The post’s fourth image, of houses and trees uprooted, was taken in China on July 8, 2020, and shows debris left behind from a landslide in Huangmei county in Hubei province. Local media reports from around that time said the landslides were the result of heavy rainfalls.

The video also features an aerial image showing a boat motoring through flooded neighbourhood streets, however the photo was taken by photographer Karl Spencer during Hurricane Harvey in the US in 2017. The same photo has been used by other news organisations with attribution to Spencer.

Floodwater released from the Three Gorges Dam in 2010.
 Floodwater is released from the Three Gorges Dam in 2010. 

The Verdict

The images in the Facebook post and video that are put forward as evidence of the Three Gorges Dam “leaking” are not related to the dam or any event in 2021. They are of flooding events that occurred at other times and places, including in Australia and the United States.

The YouTube video drawn on by the post repeats information from a 2013 BBC article about a landslide in China’s Sichuan province. This makes no mention of the Three Gorges Dam, which is about 900km away in another province.

There have been no reports of widespread flooding or leaking from China’s Three Gorges Dam prior to the post in April or May 2021.

False – Content that has no basis in fact.

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