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Pilots get “actually violent” threats after on-line rumors wrongly pin devastating floods on cloud seeding


Sydney — An Australian aviation firm says it has obtained greater than 100 threats following a web-based conspiracy concept that its pilots unleashed a flooding catastrophe by cloud seeding. Conspiracy theorists unfold the false claims on social media after weeks of torrential rains led to lethal east coast floods over the previous two months, engulfing properties and sweeping vehicles from the roads.

Posts shared on-line alleged aerial survey pilots from Handel Aviation precipitated a second deluge within the flood-ravaged New South Wales city of Lismore on March 31 by cloud seeding — dispersing a substance into the clouds to immediate rain.

Australia hit by floods for second time in weeks
A automobile is seen submerged in floodwater following heavy rains within the northern city of Lismore, New South Wales, Australia, March 30, 2022 in a picture taken from video.

Seven Community/Handout/REUTERS


“A pilot from Handel Aviation in Cessna 210N Centurion VH-JIL did a breakfast time cloud seeding run over Lismore South & Ballina at present whereas sightseeing the large flood under him,” one extensively shared publish reads.

The flight path of the Handel Aviation plane VH-JIL criss-crossing over flooded areas was additionally shared on-line by Australian clothier Alice McCall alongside claims it was dropping chemical substances to “activate rain.”

Handel Aviation operator Mark Handel instructed AFP on Thursday that the corporate doesn’t seed clouds.

The flight was gathering photographs for aerial maps offered to Australian mapping firm NearMap, he mentioned.

“Handel Aviation operates aerial images plane solely. Our current flights over flooded areas of NSW and QLD are in response to the floods,” an announcement on the Handel Aviation web site reads.

NearMap confirmed to AFP the images taken by Handel Aviation had been commissioned to map disaster-affected areas for insurers and emergency companies.  

“These aerial captures are commissioned after main climate catastrophes and pure disasters, together with following the current east coast flooding,” the NearMap spokesman mentioned.

The claims circulating on-line led to greater than 100 threats being despatched to Handel Aviation, regardless of it explaining the aim of the flights on the contact web page of the corporate’s web site.

“We had actually violent threatening stuff coming by means of. Like: ‘now we have the pilots’ names, we all know the place you reside, you are going to pay for this,’ form of stuff,” Handel instructed AFP.

FILE PHOTO: Young Australians take climate protest to prime minister's residence
A flooded street is seen in Lismore, New South Wales, Australia, following heavy rains on March 2, 2022.

AAP Picture/Jason O’Brien/REUTERS


Handel mentioned he tasked his operations supervisor, Anthony Berko, with responding to every e mail and calling individuals who offered their telephone numbers.

A few of these he contacted had been stunned or offended, Berko mentioned. However others had been distressed, telling the skilled pilot they’d misplaced every part through the floods and thought the corporate was accountable.

“They wanted a shoulder to cry on and listen to their story. They’ve principally misplaced every part after which somebody has then mentioned this is your reply,” Berko mentioned.

Regardless of the web claims, cloud seeding just isn’t accountable for any of the east coast floods, mentioned climate modification knowledgeable Simon Siems.

Siems, a professor who leads a Monash College workforce learning clouds and precipitation, mentioned the follow just isn’t carried out within the Northern Rivers area and it can not trigger flooding.

“Cloud seeding just isn’t that efficient, folks do it solely underneath very particular circumstances,” he mentioned.



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