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Osaka gov warns about false rumors spread on social media after earthquake

A magnitude-6.1 earthquake struck the Kansai area on Monday morning
A magnitude-6.1 earthquake caused a disruption to many train services after it hit the Kansai area on Monday morning (Twitter)

OSAKA (TR) – Following a magnitude-6.1 earthquake that caused widespread damage in the Kansai area on Monday, the Osaka Prefectural Government issued a warning about false rumors that had begun circulating on social-networking services (SNS).

The temblor, which shook Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Shiga prefectures, struck at around 7:58 a.m. Thereafter, unsubstantiated reports began being spread on SNS services, including Twitter.

“Foreigners are not used to earthquakes so they will start committing robberies at convenience stores or rushing to airports,” wrote one Twitter user. Another said, “Beware of Chinese residents of Japan who steal, exploit and rob.”

Other users falsely claimed that the earthquake had caused a derailment of a Keihan Electric Railway train, water service to be cut in all of Minoh City and a crack to form in the roof of Kyocera Dome, located in Osaka City’s Kita Ward.

“Like Chinese whispers”

“It appears that one passenger wrote immediately after the earthquake, ‘I think the train derailed,'” said a representative from the public relations office of Keihan Electric Railway, according to Jiji Press (June 19). “Through something like Chinese whispers, this turned into ‘the train derailed’ in subsequent messages that were spread around.”

Kyocera Dome
A Twitter user falsely claimed that a crack had formed in Kyocera Dome following Monday’s earthquake
About one hour after the quake struck, yet another Twitter user falsely stated that a zebra had bolted captivity in the northern part of Osaka Prefecture. The tweet was accompanied by an image of a zebra walking on past a barricade on a mountain road. By evening, the tweet had been retweeted more than 300 times.

The Osaka Prefectural Government later issued a warning about such claims on its web site. “Via SNS, information differing from facts, such as accidents that did not actually occur, are disseminated and spread,” read the message. “Please pay attention to the source of the information and make sure that it is reliable.”

Thus far, local authorities have confirmed four deaths and 375 injuries as a result of the earthquake. The jolt also caused water mains to burst, trains to be halted and some structures to collapse.