Nepal's historic Dharahara Tower — a nine-story watchtower designed to provide views of the country's winding capital, Kathmandu — was reduced to rubble by Saturday's magnitude-7.8 earthquake. Officials said the weekend disaster has claimed more than 3,800 lives; the Hindu newspaper reported that "about 180 bodies have been retrieved" from the ruins of the Dharahara alone.
Since the quake, the mass grave, it seems, has become a popular site for selfies. People have been seen smiling with friends and snapping pictures at the historic site.
“This is earthquake tourism. This is not right,” student Pawan Thapa, 21, told the Associated Press. “They are more interested in clicking their selfies than understanding that it is a tragedy.”
In 1832, the Dharahara Tower, also known as Bhimsen Tower, was built as a watchtower for the queen. It was destroyed in 1934 during one of the worst earthquakes the nation has ever seen, according to the Wall Street Journal. That temblor killed more than 16,000 people in Nepal and India, according to Nepal's National Seismological Center. The tower was restored in 1936.
For years, the white, lighthouse-looking landmark in the Kathmandu Valley has been open to tourists, who would climb the spiral staircase to an eighth-floor observation area overlooking the ancient city.
Saturday's earthquake hit during lunchtime, shaking Kathmandu and leveling its watchtower again.
“I was passing by Dharhara when I felt a huge tremor of earthquake," Sujata Thapa, 22, told the Guardian. "I stood still. In a few seconds, I saw Dharhara falling down. People were screaming in pain.”
"I was here yesterday, I was here the day before yesterday, and it was there,” Kashish Das Shrestha, a photographer and writer, told the New York Times. “Today it’s just gone. Last night, from my terrace, I was looking at the tower. And today I was at the tower — and there is no tower.”
Dharahara Tower has long been captured in holiday photos and on postcards; now, people are documenting its demise on their smartphones while standing on piles of red bricks and dust.
According to the AP:
Most of those taking pictures, however, did not appear to be tourists but locals capturing the devastation of their community, and the loss of a landmark that had helped define it.
The trend, of course, is hardly exclusive to Nepal.
An American woman earned international scorn after taking a selfie at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Selfies at the 9/11 Memorial also have triggered a firestorm.
And recently, after a fatal explosion in New York, the New York Post put this on its cover:
MORE READING: Before and after: Nepal's World Heritage sites in ruins