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Images of Italy’s crying president, COVID-19 coffins false

A photo of “the crying president of Italy” bewailing the shortage of cemetery space for fatalities of the coronavirus pandemic and another photo showing hundreds of coffins of the supposed victims are both false.

The “crying president” is not Italian president Sergio Mattarella. He is Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro.

The hundreds of coffins lined up in a cavernous hall are those of African migrants who died in a shipwreck off Lampedusa, Italy in 2013. The photo was taken at Lampedusa’s airport hangar.

The two photos were shared March 22 by Facebook page Rody Duterte Update in a post urging Filipinos to stay home during the quarantine period imposed by the government:

Just look at the crying president of Italy
Italy has the most advance Health Care Facilities but they failed to control Corona because they were taking it as a joke in initial days and todays their president cried that we are short of space for burying dead bodies of corona affecties.
We Filipinos as a nation must learn from this and its our moral duty to obey our government instructions and policies regarding Corona and cooperate with them.
It's better to be at home for few days rather than on ventilator in ICU.
Rest in (HOME) 🏠 is better than Rest in Peace.

Like Rody Duterte Update, viral social media accounts have misused Bolsonaro’s picture and published the same misleading text.

At an evangelical Thanksgiving service last December, Bolsonaro teared up as he recalled how his young daughter nearly became an orphan when he was stabbed during the 2018 election campaign.

The Brazilian news site Poder 360 used the image, which also appeared as a thumbnail of a few YouTube videos about the Brazilian president.

The photo of coffins at the hangar of Lampedusa’s airport was taken Oct. 9, 2013 by photographer Roberto Salomone for the European Commission and Agence France Presse.

It showed European Union delegates, led by former Portugal prime minister and then EC President Jose Manuel Barroso, paying tribute to the more than 360 shipwreck victims.

A similar photo fact-checked days ago by FactRakers showed it was also repurposed by netizens to make it appear the coffins held the bodies of Italy’s coronavirus victims.

Italy counted 4,827 dead on March 23, the hugest toll from the pandemic that started in China. It has called in the army to transport coffins of victims out of Bergamo, the city worst-hit by the outbreak.

Created in February 2016, Rody Duterte Update has 135,695 followers. Its misleading post had 530 likes and 416 shares.


Bertelli, M. (2020, March 21). In Italy, deaths and funerals in isolation bring unknown pain. Retrieved from

Davis, L. (2013, October 10). Lampedusa victims include mother and baby attached by umbilical cord. Retrieved from

Ferro, M. (2019, December 17). Bolsonaro cries when he remembers stabbing, in evangelical worship in the Plateau. Poder 360. Retrieved from (Translation)

Pollina E. & Flak A. (2020, March 19). COVID-19 Italy: Military fleet carries coffins of coronavirus victims out of overwhelmed town. Retrieved from

Rody Duterte Update. (2020, March 22). Just look at the crying president of Italy… [Facebook status update]. Retrieved from

Shipwreck in Lampedusa: more than 300 bodies found. (2013, October 9). Retrieved from

TV Alternative (2019, December 19). Bolsonaro minimizes family corruption scheme and defends cattle ranching on indigenous land. Retrieved from


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