Gas workers dug up street days before blast killed girl, 4, locals say

Gas workers ‘dug up street just days before horrific blast three doors down’ that killed four-year-old girl and seriously injured three others

  • Child killed in blast on Galpin’s Road in south London named as Sahara Salman
  • Her family said to be among Croydon residents who had complained of gas smell
  • Dozens continued to work last night to pinpoint the cause of the tragedy
  • A meeting last night led to angry exchanges after no gas bosses turned up
  • A cordon has been widened amid claims workers had found another leak

Gas bosses faced mounting questions last night as residents claimed the family of a four-year-old killed in a house explosion were among those who had complained about a leak.

Workers had been seen digging on the road days before the blast.

Dozens of emergency services teams and engineers continued to work last night to pinpoint the cause of the tragedy. And a cordon was also widened amid claims workers had found another leak and ‘elevated’ gas readings. It came as the child killed in the blast, which destroyed one house and damaged others, was named as Sahara Salman.

A meeting between residents and police, fire and council officials on Monday night led to angry exchanges after no gas bosses turned up.

Gas bosses faced mounting questions last night as residents claimed the family of a four-year-old killed in a house explosion were among those who had complained about a leak

Workers had been seen digging on the road days before the blast

Reverend Deji Ayorinde, of the nearby Pollards Hill Baptist Church, said: ‘People in a position to make a difference have been tone deaf to concerns of the community. Yet again this has resulted in unnecessary loss of life.’

Sahara’s family were said to be among residents in the south London street who had complained of the smell of gas.

Local MP Siobhain McDonagh has written to Southern Gas Networks (SGN) asking why complaints were ignored. She said: ‘How was this allowed to happen, why weren’t people made aware, and why weren’t they evacuated before the terrible tragedy?’

A friend of Sahara’s family, Thoheed Maricar, 52, claimed the casualties had included other children. He said of Sahara: ‘The girl was a beautiful, cute four-year-old. She was a happy girl. She played around a lot and was very active.’

Dozens of tributes were left behind for the girl, whose body was pulled from the rubble hours after the explosion on Monday morning. Mr Maricar said that the gas company ‘didn’t come straight away’ when Sahara’s family complained of the smell, offering them an appointment instead. Delroy Simms, 62, said he was with another neighbour when they called the gas company on Wednesday last week, five days before the explosion.

A woman lays flowers near Galpin’s Road in Thornton Heath, south London. The child killed in the blast, which destroyed one house and damaged others, has been named as Sahara Salman

A massive explosion destroyed a house in South London, killing a 4-year-old child. Dozens of emergency services teams and engineers continued to work last night to pinpoint the cause of the tragedy

Residents walking out with packed bags having been evacuated after a further gas leak was discovered. A cordon was widened amid claims workers had found another leak and ‘elevated’ gas readings

Dozens of tributes were left behind for the girl, whose body was pulled from the rubble hours after the explosion on Monday morning

He said: ‘She was telling them, “The smell, it’s really, really strong, someone needs to be here.”’

Dee Akomanyi, 45, who has lived on the street for 30 years, said: ‘I could smell this sweet, sulphury stench all through the night, I couldn’t sleep because of it.

‘People were reporting it, but nothing was done. It’s scary.’ Merton Council leader Ross Garrod criticised insurance companies refusing to help house residents. Around 50 more homes were evacuated when the cordon was widened, with some 200 people given temporary accommodation.

Mr Garrod said: ‘There is still a strong smell of gas and we understand a leak may take some days to stop.’ SGN has said its engineers are working with emergency services to find the cause of the blast, but that it was unable to comment on the ongoing Metropolitan Police investigation.

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