In Depth

Italy outraged by train accident selfie

Young man posed in front of first aiders treating a woman struck by a train in Piacenza

Italians have responded with outrage to a photo of a man taking a selfie in front of a woman who had been struck by a train.

The young man in white shorts appears to throw a “V for victory” sign as he stands on the platform and angles his phone towards emergency personnel tending to a bleeding woman lying on the tracks at Piacenza station, in northern Italy.

The man was stopped by railway police officers on the scene and made to delete the image. However, it is the photo of the photo - taken on 26 May by journalist Giorgio Lambri - which has proven even more shocking.

Since Lambri first published the image on Sunday, it has set off something of a moral panic in Italy, with soul-searching opinion pieces questioning whether social media has warped society’s sense of decency.

The accident on the tracks may have been bloody and horrifying, but the “truly gruesome scene” was that taking place on the platform, says Italian news website Quotidiano.

For many commentators, the astonishing image of a young man happily posing in front of a grievously injured woman offered a striking juxtaposition of online connectivity and disconnect from real-life horror.

Writing for the magazine Famiglia Cristiana, psychotherapist Alberto Pellai said the incident captured the moment “where narcissism marries desensitisation”.

The Piacenza selfie is an extreme example of an “insane modern craze of documenting one’s presence as a grinning witness at every moment of life, whether tragic or comic”, writes La Stampa’s Gianluca Nicoletti, letting real life “run behind us like a film reel”.

The woman injured in the accident, a Canadian national, was taken to hospital, where one of her legs was amputated.

The cause of the accident is still being investigated, but local media report that she is thought to have fallen onto the tracks while disembarking from a train after a door opened on the wrong side.

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