Hurricane Irma
Police patrol the area as Hurricane Irma slams across islands in the northern Caribbean on Wednesday, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sept. 6, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez

When Category 5 Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Caribbean islands on Wednesday, it wreaked havoc, claiming lives and leaving hundreds of thousands without homes or power. But the exact rate of devastation was hard to comprehend with many scammers taking to the internet to circulate fake videos and misinformation about Irma’s destruction.

As local news channels from hurricane-struck areas such as St. Martin and Barbuda in the Caribbean scrambled to send out the latest updates, people from all over the world turned to social media for news about Irma.

The saying “no news is good news” did not apply in this case as the complete silence from residents living on the island of Barbuda made people fear the worst on Twitter. Hence, social media users started to believe any videos that surfaced online regarding the hurricane, even the tiniest news about the storm, without bothering to verify the source of the information.

One such video appeared on a Facebook Page that claimed to be a live stream of Hurricane Irma. However, it was actually a 9-month-old video playing on a loop that showed footage from Cyclone Vardah that happened in India. The video was originally uploaded in December 2016 by Accuweather.

Within hours it had received 6 million views and more than 160,000 shares on the platform. Concerned viewers kept commenting below with prayers for the families affected by the natural disaster, without anyone realizing that it was a hoax.

According to CNN, the fact that the video was shared by a verified user, called “Carlos Trewher,” may have helped the video go viral since everyone is aware of the fact that Facebook only dishes out “blue ticks” to “eligible brands, media organizations, and public figures.”

The "live stream" was removed from Facebook on Wednesday afternoon. Another Facebook user, Hendry Moya Duran, copied a year old video from YouTube and tried to pass it off on social media as a video of Irma making landfall. He did succeed for a while as it garnered over 27 million views and more than 770,000 shares.

People started to realize that the video was actually of a tornado hitting Uruguay in 2016 after they traced its source back to the YouTube video that it had been ripped off from.

In fact, the footage looked so authentic that it fooled a meteorologist and traffic reporter with a TV station in Georgia. She had shared it on her Facebook page, only to apologize later for the same.

“I fell for it. This is NOT IRMA. This is old video. My sincerest apologies. I didn't inspect this carefully enough; thank you to those who did! Again, sorry!!!” she wrote.

And it’s not just fake videos that are going around. They are also accompanied by widespread misinformation that is convincing enough to strike unnecessary panic in the hearts of people across the globe.

After Irma was termed as the second-most strongest storm ever observed in the Atlantic Ocean, a rumor started going around that it was the first “Category 6” storm to ever come into existence. According to the Washington Post, the rumor is not only fake; it is also absurd. This is because there is no such thing as a “Category 6” storm.

Facebook user Michel Snyder seems to be one of the originators of this myth as he uploaded an article on The Economic Collapse headlined “Category 6? If Hurricane Irma Becomes The Strongest Hurricane In History, It Could Wipe Entire Cities Off The Map.

The founder of Info Wars also helped spread the rumor:

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, on which hurricanes are measured, does not have a category beyond 5, which means that any hurricane which qualifies as the final category can invariably be categorized as a deadly natural crisis.