Photo edited to add a shark at a flooded Australian train station

CLAIM: Photo shows a shark swimming through a flooded train station in Sydney, Australia.

AP ASSESSMENT: False. Photo of a shark in a flooded transit station has been manipulated. The original image, which shows a rescue worker pumping water from a flooded train entrance, contains no fish and has been circulating online since at least 2014.

THE FACTS: After torrential rain days caused dams to overflow and waterways to burst in and around Sydney, Australia’s largest city, a years-old image has surfaced online claiming to show the aftermath of the flooding.

The image, widely shared on social media this week, shows what appears to be a shark swimming through water that has flooded a train station. A rescuer in a fluorescent suit is visible on the stairs leading to the station, next to a pump.

“Sydney Aquarium staff are on their way to fix this at a train station in Sydney,” a Twitter user captioned the image on Sunday, receiving more than 4,000 shares and 20,000 likes.

However, the 8-year-old’s photo has been manipulated.

The original was caught during devastating storms in October 2014 in the state of New South Wales, which includes Sydney. A 2014 statement of the State Fire and Rescue Department called the night of October 14, 2014 “one of its busiest nights”. The state emergency service also tweeted updates on flood warnings and rescues throughout the day.

Amid the storms, the Australia News Network outlet on October 14, 2014, tweeted the same picture of the flooded station ⁠— minus the shark ⁠— with the caption “Lewisham station in #Sydney’s Inner West has been flooded amid severe storms.” The same picture was also posted on Facebook and Twitter that day in 2014 by an account called NSW Incident Alerts, which aggregates emergency alerts for New South Wales.

The Australian news program The Today Show has also job a similar angle of the same flooded station on 14 October 2014, stating in the caption that it showed Lewisham station almost underwater.

None of the images showed a shark.

Current geolocation data from Google Maps shows the same staircase shown in all images leading to Lewisham station near Sydney.

This is not the first time that the image of the station has been changed. A similar version manipulated to add a shark circulated online in 2018 and 2019, among others.

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This is part of AP’s efforts to combat widely shared misinformation, including working with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.



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James H. Wright