A NASA alert warned of an imminent earthquake in Delhi, India. Or so people thought.
In March 2018, news spread about a soon to come earthquake that would hit Delhi, India (India’s capital) between the times of April 7 and April 15. The viral message was first spread through WhatsApp group chats and soon after reached other social media platforms. The message claimed that NASA predicted an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.1 or 9.2 on the Richter scale and also claimed that the government was already taking action to save as many lives as possible. This message caused panic among those who received the news and in a short amount of time, it spread like wildfire. After further analysis and probing though, this message turned out to be fake news and provides us with a perfect instance of how misinformation can spread and escalate.
If you were to look up anything with the keywords being NASA, Delhi, and earthquake, you are given plenty of articles refuting the claim that NASA predicted a major earthquake hitting Delhi. Also, even though this story appeared around March 2018, Google searches show articles with the same story appearing with the date March 2020. Other interesting things are found in these articles as well. In a shocking coincidence, there was an earthquake that occurred on April 12th, which lies between the time the fake message predicted. However, the magnitude of this earthquake was far less than what was initially spread and NASA never predicted, nor made a statement, about this earthquake. Also, the earthquake’s epicenter was Sardhana in Uttar Pradesh, which is about 100km from Delhi.
The origin of the message, neither who started it nor where it started, could be found, but there are shorts clips of the original video and/or inexact versions of what the text contained. Although not the original, the message was supposed to have sounded something like this:
According to NASA, the biggest earthquake will hit Delhi soon. The Rector’s Scale is 9.1 or may be 9.2. Date has not cleared yet but it may occur in Between 7th of April to 15th April. Loss of life has declared in Lacs. The Centre of This Biggest rector’s scale earthquake would be Gurugram. This is the 2nd time in World’s History that huge loss of life and property has declared by NASA. This is biggest Earthquake may occure in Delhi NCR. Spread to all your relatives or friends who stay in Delhi NCR. This earthquake will be the largest as it covers the areas like In India ( Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, J&K to Tamilnadu, Rajasthan to Bihar. In Pakistan Rector’s Scale would be 4–4.2 maximum. If possible move at least for a week from Delhi NCR. Govt will take action very soon on This to save life of People. For More Details www.nasaalert.com
The viral message made a lot of claims that have been refuted. For one, earthquakes have never been predicted and will not be predicted with the technology we have now. According to the USGS, an earthquake prediction must define 3 elements: the date and time, the location, and the magnitude. Things like seismic alerts tell you an earthquake is coming seconds before it happens rather than days or weeks. Also, NASA never made a statement about an earthquake happening. Another interesting thing is IMD officials labeled the 3.5 magnitude earthquake that actually did occur to be a rare event that occurred in Northeast Delhi.
This fake news story isn’t any different from other fake news stories that have occurred in the past or will occur. They all usually come from a sketchy background and end up spreading because people don’t take the time to find out whether the information they are receiving and sharing is legit. Although the headlines we may come across are eye-catching, we should be mindful of whether or not it is the truth or another piece of baloney.
“Delhi Earthquake: NASA’s Warning Message Proved Fake; Yet, Studies Warn of Stronger Quake: The Weather Channel — Articles from The Weather Channel.” The Weather Channel, 12 Apr. 2020, weather.com/en-IN/india/science/news/2020–04–12-delhi-earthquake-nasa-warning-fake-studies-warn-stronger-quake.
Republic World. “Fact Check: Did NASA Issue an Alert about the Earthquake in Delhi Beforehand?” Republic World, Republic World, 13 Apr. 2020, www.republicworld.com/fact-check/coronavirus/fact-check-did-nasa-alert-about-earthquake-in-delhi-beforehand.html.
MacGuill, Dan. “Did NASA Warn of an Impending Earthquake in India?” Snopes.com, 22 Mar. 2018, www.snopes.com/fact-check/nasa-india-earthquake/.