Harare City Council says witnesses, who appeared intent on capturing footage on their mobile phones, blocked the scene of a devastating fire that gutted Callans Building on Wednesday.
Council said the crowd blocked the swift response of the fire brigade, leading to avoidable delays in extinguishing the fire.
The fire started just before 2pm and reduced goods, worth thousands of dollars, to ashes.
The witnesses jostled to capture footage of the blaze on their smartphones instead of vacating the vicinity to create a safe perimeter for emergency responders.
“The property was extensively damaged. Our fire brigade was initially blocked from accessing the building by a crowd gathered there.
“The fire-fighters had to engage anti-riot police to disperse the crowd.
“The firemen then accessed the building after some time and by then the fire had already caused extensive damage.
“It is also dangerous for people to go so close to such situations,” said the Council in a Facebook post.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.