Iranian celebrities have been implored to stop taking selfies and recording videos at the scene of a fatal building collapse in the city of Abadan.
In fewer than 24 hours several celebrities have made the journey to Khuzestan to film themselves in front of the wreckage of the Metropol complex, a vast planned commercial hub where the unfinished Tower 2 came crashing to the ground on yesterday.
At least 10 people are known to have died, with scores more still buried under the rubble. The body of the owner, Hossein Abdolbaghi, was identified on Tuesday afternoon.
According to a newly-published report by ISNA News Agency, the first famous faces were onsite within hours of the disaster and at a time when search and rescue teams were trying to cordon off the scene.
The actor and director Seyed Javad Hashemi was among those to walk around the ruined buildings for the apparent benefit of followers. In a series of videos, Hashemi criticized the presence of large crowds of onlookers and told them to stay away from the site, failing to acknowledge that he was one of them.
حضور جواد هاشمی و علیرام نورایی در محل ریزش ساختمان متروپل آبادان!— A380 (@VIPA380) May 24, 2022
میفرمایند مردم تجمع نکنن !خودت رفتی اونجا چیکار بزرگوار ؟؟🤔 pic.twitter.com/Rj5ODEqKrA
Alirum Nouraei, another actor who has starred in pro-Islamic Republic films and TV serials such as The Golden Collars and Gando, accompanied Hashemi to Abadan.
He posted his own video on Instagram in which footage of victims being rushed out of the building was set to mournful Persian pop music. There was no indication that he had sought their permission before posting it.
Ismail Najjar, the former head of Iran’s crisis management organization, told ISNA: “We appreciate the sense of altruism. But when accidents take place the space should be free for rescuers.
"Unfortunately, around the Metropol tower we saw the same thing as happened after the collapse of the Plasco building [in Tehran in 2016, when large crowds formed near the site].
“People’s presence has to be reduced, except for that of the aid workers and the units who ensure order and security. In this situation there is no difference between an actor, a football player, a singer or a laborer. None of them should be on the scene.”
Large parts of the Metropol towers are still standing, making the debris clearance and rescue operation extremely delicate. Up to 80 people are thought to be under the rubble. Mehdi Davari, former director of Tehran Fire and Rescue, said it was paramount they be reached quickly.
“The presence of celebrities at the scene of the accident can endanger even their own lives,” he told ISNA. “Also, injecting emotion into the setting can make the operation more difficult.
“People should trust the emergency services. What happened is not something celebrities can help with.”
Public safety expert Mohsen Hosseinkhani went further, telling the news agency that film stars were the very last people who should be on the scene of a disaster. “Their presence increases the crowds; people may even come out just to see them.
“I think one of the things that draws these people to the scene is increasing their followers on Instagram, and making videos of themselves. Unfortunately we’ve sometimes even seen people using a person’s death to draw attention to themselves.”