Fish swim in a stream (file image)
Fish being sucked into waterspouts and dumped on land is a rare natural phenomenon. Image by AP PHOTO

Images of outback ‘fishnado’ smell a bit funny

David Williams September 15, 2023

Photos show the aftermath of hundreds of fish having fallen from the sky in a remote Australian town.


False. The photos are from a 2015 fish truck mishap in China.

It is being claimed several hundred fish fell from the sky, leaving the slippery customers scattered across a road in a small outback town.

The claim is false. Residents of the Northern Territory community of Lajamanu woke on February 20 this year to find a number of dead fish in puddles around the town.

However, the bizarre occurrence has been overexaggerated with the use of photos of a 2015 incident in China in which seven tonnes of catfish spilt from a truck.

The images are being shared across social media, (see here, here, here and here) linking it to the Lajamanu phenomenon.

“Fish are falling from the sky in a region where raindrops are rare,” one post states.

“It happened in Lajamanu, a town in the northern end of Tanami Desert, Australia.”

A screenshot of one of the Facebook posts.
 The images in the posts are not from outback NT. 

The claim is also made in several Facebook reels (example here) which interpret the event as having religious significance, featuring several strange but naturally occurring phenomena.

A longer version of the same video is shared in this post.

Like many fantastic tales, there is an element of truth to the posts.

Lajamanu residents say the phenomenon occurred overnight on February 19/20, 2023.

The event was covered by ABC News, which reported locals saying the fish fell during a heavy rainstorm.

It’s reportedly not the first time the town has experienced a fishy downpour. The ABC said similar instances occurred in 1974, 2004 and 2010.

The phenomenon of aquatic creatures falling from the sky during rainstorms is rare. The BBC reports 50kg of fish fell in a village in Sri Lanka in 2014.

This BBC video explains fish are likely transported via a waterspout, before being dumped over land (video mark 2min 12sec).

The same theory is discussed in this 2013 science blog hosted by the West Texas University. In 2021, fish reportedly fell from the sky in the Texan town of Texarkana.

Dead fish on a riverbank (file image)
 Images of fish on land are usually associated with flooding, drought or mass kills. 

However, neither the video nor the photos shared on Facebook depict Lajamanu, which is some 500km southwest of Katherine on the edge of the Tanami Desert, or the aftermath of a fish rainstorm.

Jake Combe, a manager at Warnayaka Art Gallery in Lajamanu, said he could “100 per cent state” none of the videos or photos were from the town.

“Around February of this year (during the wet season), many Lajamanu residents found fish (up to approx 15cm in length) in the street,” Mr Combe told AAP FactCheck in an email.

“I’m told that no one actually witnessed the fish falling from the sky as the phenomena occurred during the night.

“The fish were discovered in the morning in puddles/small patches of water on the dirt roads.”

There are no roads anything like the ones shown in the video and images within 100 kilometres of the desert town.

Part of the Great Sandy Desert (file image)
 Paved roads are as rare as raining fish in the Tanami Desert. 

The Central Desert Regional Council website features an aerial photo of Lajamanu, clearly showing no sealed roads.

“Access is via the sealed Buntine Highway and then via 100kms of unsealed road,” the site states.

“Access can also be made from Alice Springs utilising the Tanami Road, which is unsealed and often in poor repair.”

Most of the images in the Facebook posts are from the truck mishap in China in March 2015, when the vehicle’s cargo door accidentally opened, spilling tonnes of fish onto a highway at Kaili, in Guizhou Province.

The source of the video shared on Facebook is unknown.

The Verdict

The claim video and photos show hundreds of fish on the paved streets of Lajamanu in Australia’s outback following a rainstorm is false.

While locals say the natural phenomenon did occur, the dramatic images are not from the remote Northern Territory town.

Instead, most of the images are from an incident in China from 2015.

False — The claim is inaccurate.

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