6 December 2023

False: Video of man punching banana tree was filmed in Indonesia last year, not Tonga in 2022

The video was posted in December 2021 and shows the tidal bore in Kampar river in Indonesia.


A tweet on Jan. 15 with a video supposedly showing a man punching a banana tree before being swept away by the recent tsunami in Tonga has been shared over 3,000 times as of this writing.

The video, which has recorded more than 1.5 million views, was posted by Siraj Noorani, who describes himself as “a freelance journalist and food blogger.”

Noorani used the hashtags #HungaTongaHungaHaapai, #Tsunami, #Tonga and #Earthquake implying that the footage is about the recent tsunami in Tonga in the Southern Pacific Ocean.

In China, it was also shared on Douyin and even by the state-controlled China Central Television (CCTV) with the same claim. The Douyin video garnered 29,000 likes.

However, the claim is false.

One of the online users commenting on the tweet said it was taken in 2021 with a link to a YouTube video posted on Dec. 7, 2021, a month before the tsunami triggered by an underwater volcanic eruption in Tonga that occurred on Jan. 15, 2022.

The YouTube channel Membayang TV features a series of videos of Bono waves, or tidal bore, in Indonesia. A tidal bore happens when there are high sea tides and the water flows upstream in rivers or estuaries. It is a phenomenon in Kampar river, Riau, Indonesia.

The title of the YouTube video contains the phrase “salam dari binjai,” referring to a trend in Indonesia about men punching banana trees that was started by a former boxer from the city of Binjai in North Sumatra.

Annie Lab asked Membayang TV who took the video and where it was taken. The account holder replied on Jan. 17, 2022, and said his younger brother took it and it was shot on Ogis beach in Riau, Indonesia.

Screenshot of a YouTube comment from Membayang TV saying "hi yes very possible. This video was taken by my younger brother. The place is on the ogis beach. Indonesia, Riau, Pelalawan, Teluk Meranti."
The video uploader provided the exact location where the clip was shot.

A look at the exchange in the comments section under the YouTube clip led to another link consisting of various videos showing the same man who punched the banana tree, the woman in the hijab and the man taking a video of the tidal bore.

The compilation showed the various points of view from where the video was taken. This video, for one, showed the woman in the hijab recording the tidal bore in her mobile phone; while in this video, the three of them could be seen together starting from 3:53.

Screenshots of three YouTube videos showing the same three persons.
All three YouTube videos show the same three persons during the Bono waves hitting the riverbank, proving the videos were taken in the same place and the same moment.

On Reddit, the same video was shared on 26 different subreddits and garnered more than 28,000 comments in the last four days although not all comments associated it with Tonga or tsunami. A GIF version of the clip has also been circulating on the internet.

This claim has also been fact-checked by Reuters and AFP.

The Associated Press reported that the volcanic eruption in Tonga also led to the issuance of tsunami advisories in Japan, Hawaii and Alaska.