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Did cars catch fire at Kenya’s flagship safari rally? No, video from unrelated event in Botswana

IN SHORT: A video on TikTok showed a fire burning several cars, with the claim this happened in Naivasha, Kenya, during the 2023 Safari Rally. But the incident took place at a rally in Botswana, more than 2,500 kilometres away.

A video on TikTok shows a fire burning tens of cars parked in a dry, open field. A distraught man can be seen walking around.

The video is narrated in Kiswahili, a language spoken widely across East Africa.

It can be roughly translated as: “And I told you guys this Naivasha will cause problems. Now look at what happened last night. People went outside to camp, to cook, bonfires and all. Fire has caught the grass and even spread to the cars. They can’t get the cars out due to the traffic caused by their reckless parking. All cars have been burnt. Look at people’s cars. They’ve all been burnt. And others had gone to Naivasha town to get drunk. Now what is this?” 

The video was posted on 26 June 2023, shortly after the end of the 2023 Safari Rally in Kenya.  It has over 32,000 likes, 1,215 comments, and has been shared over 5,200 times.


Safety concerns a headache for rally

The World Rally Championship (WRC) is an international motorsport rally competition held in various countries around the world. The Safari Rally, first held in 1953, was once part of the WRC East African Safari Rally, which included routes in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. 

The Safari Rally was part of the WRC from 1973 until 2002. It was removed from the competition mainly due to lack of funds and safety concerns.

However, the rally successfully returned to Kenya in 2021 and has since been held in the Naivasha region of the country. Naivasha is a town in the Great Rift Valley, about 90 kilometres north-west of the capital Nairobi. It is known for its beautiful scenery, wildlife and challenging terrain. 

Since the return of the rally to Kenya, many Kenyans have made it an annual event to head to Naivasha to watch the rally and socialise.

The large crowds of spectators have prompted organisers to improve the safety of the event, especially since safety concerns were part of the reason the original Safari Rally was suspended in 2002. Over the years, various safety measures have been established.

A fire on the scale claimed in social media posts would have had serious consequences for the rally's reputation. But did it happen?

A reverse image search of keyframes in the video leads to videos and articles of the actual event, which took place in Botswana at the Toyota Gazoo Racing 1000 racing event in June 2023. 

About 50 cars parked on the grass were damaged by fire, but no injuries or deaths were reported. The cause of the fire was not clear but investigations are ongoing. The 2023 Safari Rally in Kenya was successfully completed without any major negative incidents.

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