On 14 April 2017, the Daily Star, a British tabloid, reported a claim that North Korea had evacuated 600,000 residents of its capital city Pyongyang amid fears of a nuclear attack:
Russian newspaper Pravda Report claimed North Korea ordered the evacuation of 600,000 residents – a quarter of the city – as fears over a nuclear strike grow.
South Korean media said families had been torn apart by the evacuation as despot Kim Jong-Un looks set to spark a war with President Trump after months of troop build-up and nuclear weapon testing.
In the video above, reportedly filmed in the North Korean city, alarms can be heard echoing around the streets signalling residents need to flee their homes.
The article contained a video posted to YouTube on 12 April 2017 by a user called “Lazar” with a caption stating: “According to sources Pyongyang alarms went off due to mass evacuation of 600,000+ Pyongyang residents.”
The Daily Star story was cribbed from Pravda, a Russian publication that served as the government’s propaganda vehicle. Pravda reports:
In accordance with the order, 600,000 people should be urgently evacuated. Experts note that the evacuation will most likely be conducted due to extremely strained tensions in relations with the United States of America.
Reportedly, Pyongyang’s bomb shelters will not be able to accommodate the entire population of the North Korean capital. Therefore, 600,000 people – mostly individuals with criminal records – will have to leave Pyongyang to let others use bomb shelters.
To play up maximum fear, Pravda claimed the alleged evacuation was due to the fact that tensions between North Korea and the United States have been heightened in recent weeks over missile tests carried out by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, with the U.S. responding by sending a naval strike group to the region in a show of force:
Lieutenant-General H. R. McMaster, in turn, said that his commander-in-chief ordered to deploy an aircraft carrier strike group of the United States in the region. McMaster believes that the decision to deploy US Navy ships in the Sea of Japan was “reasonable,” taking into consideration the North Korean “model of provocative behaviour.”
The sensational story then bounced around a number of disreputable web sites that picked up and further spread the false information. But the story appears to be nothing more than an item of classic “fake news,” fitting the pattern of a deliberately spread hoax. The video claiming to show an evacuation alarm in Pyongyang was actually taken in Valparaíso, Chile and originally posted to YouTube on 16 September 2015 — two years before the fake Pyongyang incident.
The original video depicts a tsunami alarm after a massive 8.3-magnitude earthquake struck Chile. The quake was centered in Illapel, a small city about 3.5 hours’ drive from Valparaíso, but rattled Chileans for miles around due to its strength.
The authentic video can be seen here:
Multiple residents of Valparaiso, a coastal city, posted videos from their camera phones in which the same rising, high-pitched siren can be heard:
— Raphael Elliot (@rairizarry) September 17, 2015
Here is the same video from a different angle, posted on 25 September 2015:
On 17 September 2015, The Guardian reported on the tsunami alert for the coastal cities resulting from the quake:
Eight people have been killed and 1 million evacuated from their homes after a magnitude 8.3 earthquake struck just off the coast of Chile, sending powerful waves flooding into its coastal cities.
Coastlines on both sides of the Pacific had braced for possible tsunamis after the quake, although a tsunami alert originally issued for the entire Chilean coast was later lifted.
The claim that the video depicts an evacuation in Pyongyang that occurred in mid-April 2017 due to fears of a nuclear strike by the U.S. appear to have been drummed up solely to stir fear and anxiety. However, the stories utilize a video from the 2015 earthquake in Chile which appears to have been purposely misappropriated in order to create a fake story about a massive evacuation in North Korea.