NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the butt of online jokes on Friday when it turned out an official photo showing him surveying flood damage in southern India through a helicopter window had been doctored.
The picture showed Modi peering through the round window at a dramatic view of flooded city streets in Chennai, capital of Tamil Nadu state, after the strongest rains in a century there killed more than 280 people in a month and displaced thousands of residents.
Social media lit up with users accusing the official Press Information Bureau (PIB) of faking the scene. The PIB quickly replaced it with one showing him surveying flooded farmland, which was less clear than the shot of Chennai's streets.
Soon users were posting spoof pictures of Modi looking through the window toward Earth, as if his helicopter were a space capsule, or seeing sharks as if he were in a submarine.
There were also, inevitably, photoshopped images with cats staring back at him through the helicopter window.
The prime minister's office was shocked to see the photograph from his Thursday visit to the region being distorted, said a senior official who declined to be named.
PIB officials had been summoned and told to reinforce rules and regulations, he said. "The prime minister will not tolerate this," another staffer in the office said.
In a statement late on Friday, the PIB expressed regret for merging two pictures. "This happened due to error of judgment and the picture was subsequently deleted," it said.
Reuters initially published the doctored PIB photograph, which was authorized for independent distribution, but added a disclaimer that it could not independently verify its authenticity. Reuters later withdrew the picture.
(Reporting by Krishna N. Das and Rupam Jain Nair; Editing by Tom Heneghan)