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No, video of off-road car taken by flooded river filmed in Nicaragua, not South Africa

IN SHORT: A video on social media shows a car carried away by floodwater as the driver struggles to escape. But this fatal incident took place in Nicaragua in Central America, not South Africa.

A video of a man in a car being swept away by floodwaters has been circulating on social media in South Africa since 15 June 2023. It’s being posted with the claim it was filmed in Wemmershoek, a settlement near Franschhoek in the country’s Western Cape province.

The video starts with two cars stopped in front of a river of floodwater running across a rain-soaked road.

A white off-road car drives up behind them, hooting, and swerves past into the water. It is quickly washed backwards to lodge under a pedestrian bridge.

The footage then cuts to a view from above the bridge where you see the back of the car. Water rages beside and under the vehicle until it is again washed away by the floodwater. A man is briefly seen through the left-side window trying to control the vehicle.

The video tracks the car downstream as it’s engulfed in water. Just before the torrent carries the vehicle out of frame, the man climbs out the window.

The video has been posted on Facebook with comments such as:

The claim that the video was shot in Wemmershoek in South Africa has also appeared on Facebook here and here, as well as on Twitter and TikTok.

The Western Cape experienced above-normal rainfall in June. Parts of the province saw flooding and dams were filled beyond capacity.

One of the province’s larger dams is near Wemmershoek. On 14 June, a day before the claim about the video appeared online, the dam’s spillway gates were opened to release water downstream.

But several Facebook users cast doubt on the video’s origins. 

“Dit lyk nie vir my na Wemmershoek daai nie! Iewers in Suid Amerika!” one commented in Afrikaans. This roughly translates as “This doesn’t look like Wemmershoek to me! Somewhere in South America!”

So where was the video shot?


Tragic incident from Nicaragua

The first sign that the clip isn’t from South Africa is that vehicles are seen driving on the right side of the road, and the car itself is a left-hand drive designed for right-hand traffic. South Africa drives on the left-hand side.

Africa Check took a screenshot of the first frame of the video and ran it through a Google reverse image search. 

One of the results was a Reddit thread where a user identified the incident as happening in “a little town called Veracruz in Nicaragua”. Nicaragua is a small Spanish-speaking country in Central America.

We then googled the words “off-road vehicle floods Nicaragua”. This led us to a tweet, in Spanish, that also identifies the incident as happening in Veracruz, a town just outside Nicaragua’s capital of Managua.

The 30 May tweet includes another video where the man is seen climbing onto the bonnet of the car and trying to jump to the riverbank.

The search also returned several news reports on the incident, some in English and others in Spanish.

Nicaragua’s 100% Noticias identifies the man but reports that he failed to reach the bank and his body was found downstream hours later, “lying on his back without a shirt and wearing brown shorts”.

The driver died on 29 May in Veracruz, Nicaragua. But within a month, fact-checkers had to debunk claims that the video was filmed in India, in Sri Lanka and, here, South Africa.

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