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8 May, 2018 10:55

Stranger than fiction: Debunk of ‘fatal Chinese cable car’ inferno reveals bizarre truth (VIDEO)

Stranger than fiction: Debunk of ‘fatal Chinese cable car’ inferno reveals bizarre truth (VIDEO)

You may see frantic videos on social media purporting to show 17 people being burned alive in a shocking cable car accident in China. Don’t worry, nobody has died. But what actually happened is possibly even more bizarre.

The video shows a suspended cable car entirely engulfed in flames and spouting a huge column of black smoke. Large red Chinese text laid over the footage says the blaze occured in the city of Zhangjiajie. It claims that 17 people were killed (“burned like duck”) in the disaster and no-one managed to escape.

The video gained further traction online after being posted on LiveLeak on Tuesday with the title “17 passengers burned alive in cable car.” “Cause is unknown,” the description adds unhelpfully.

The video quickly gained a lot of responses with some people wondering if an exploding cell phone battery was responsible for the blaze, while others contemplated if they’d rather die from being burned in the cable car or from jumping out of it to escape the inferno.

However, the video is not what is being claimed.

The first clue that something isn’t right is the fact that people in the footage are speaking Arabic. Of course there could be people speaking Arabic in China, but it’s not what one would expect from the scene of a fire in Zhangjiajie, China.

An image search using a still from the video quickly shows that this isn’t the first time this footage has gone viral. An article on Chinese news website The Paper says that it was circulating on Chinese social media platform WeChat back in February 2017.

In that instance it was being claimed that the fire was on the cable cars on Nanwan Monkey Island, a sanctuary for macaque monkeys in southern China, around 1,600km (1,000 miles) away from Zhangjiajie.

The video was so widespread that Monkey Island’s tourism board even issued a statement to distance itself from the incident, saying there had never been a fire on one of its cable cars.

So where did the fire actually take place?

A bit more digging reveals that the fire took place on in the West Bank town of Jericho, in March 2015. Bizarrely the fire was the result of a stunt for a hidden camera TV show that went disastrously wrong.

The aim of the program was to put celebrities in uncomfortable situations. The target in this instance was Palestinian comedian Khalid al-Masou. He was taken up on the cable cars while the show’s host, Sharif, asked him uncomfortable questions.

Halfway through the journey, the cable car was stopped and Masou was told that it had broken down due to a power cut, Ma’an reports. Everything started to go wrong when a production assistant on the show set off a firework. The cabin quickly caught fire and “chunks of burning plastic” started falling on the occupants heads.

The passengers had to force their way out of the cab and climb on to another cable car to escape the blaze. “We had no choice but to get out of the cabin so we hanged onto the steel bars which carry the cabins… and I thank God that I still have some strength in my hands, otherwise I would have given up hope,” Masou said afterwards.

Amazingly nobody was badly hurt in the incident.

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