Photo: Shark Swims in Flooded Puerto Rico Street

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Shark Swimming Flooded Streets of Puerto Rico After Hurricane Irene

Picture of a Shark Swimming in Flooded Puerto Rico Street
Netlore Archive: Image circulating in the wake of Hurricane Irene (August 2011) appears to show a great white shark prowling the flooded streets of Puerto Rico.. Image source: unknown, circulating online

Description: Viral image / Hoax
Circulating since: Aug. 24, 2011
Status: Fake

Analysis: Hurricane Irene battered the island of Puerto Rico on the night of August 21, 2011, inundating roadways and knocking out power to more than one million residents. Among the dramatic photos documenting the widespread devastation was the one above purporting to show a great white shark prowling the flooded streets of an unnamed city. It first appeared on on August 24, and was debunked as fake the same day.

Turns out the shark image was cut-and-pasted from a well-known photo taken in South Africa by wildlife photographer Thomas P. Peschak in 2003. Not only are the features of the shark, the angle of view, and the lighting identical in both images, a close-up view of the "Puerto Rico" version shows a significant amount of image degradation around the area where the shark was Photoshopped in.

Nor is this the first time we've encountered rumors of aquatic predator sightings in urban areas flooded by storms and hurricanes. Scuttlebutt had it that sharks and alligators were seen swimming around downtown New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and in 2010 there were anecdotal reports of flesh-eating piranhas roaming a flooded shopping mall in Nashville after escaping from a storm-damaged aquarium.

Sources and further reading

Hurricane Irene Slams Puerto Rico
Associated Press, 22 August 2011

Wait... Is that Really a Shark Swimming Down a Flooded Puerto Rico Street?, 25 August 2011

Hurricane Irene: 'Photo' of Shark Swimming in Street Is Fake
Washington Post blog, 26 August 2011

Are Sharks Prowling the Streets of New Orleans?
Urban Legends, 3 September 2005

Rumor: Escaped Piranhas Roam Flooded Shopping Mall in Nashville
Urban Legends, 7 May 2011