Local authorities have identified a ‘beautiful’ four-year-old girl who died when a gas explosion tore through her home and sent debris soaring into the air.
Sahara Salman was sadly discovered dead in the ruins of a demolished home following yesterday’s terrible explosion on Galpin’s Road, Thornton Heath, south London.
In the explosion, none of the girl’s parents, Sana and Syed Muhammad Salman Ilyas, nor two of her siblings were significantly hurt.
It is believed that the family was in the home next door when the explosion occurred, and an aunt was reportedly in the attic.
A family acquaintance said that the girl was ‘happy’ and ‘cute’ and that the family had been in contact with the gas company a week before to the explosion. Neighbors had also contacted the gas company out of concern for a possible gas leak.
Thoheed Maricar, 52, a family acquaintance, said that the tragic little girl was one of four children, including an 11-year-old boy who was sent to the hospital and two other children who were relatively uninjured by the explosion.
Her mother, reportedly named Sana Ahmad, is said to work as a receptionist for the NHS.
Mr Maricar said: ‘Yesterday the mum was crying and she was in a horrible situation as she had just lost a baby.
‘I was called up at around 9am yesterday and was told ‘uncle, there has been a big blast at a neighbour’s house’.
‘The mum was saying ‘my third child is missing’ but she couldn’t really talk to me. She was crying and screaming.
‘The girl is a beautiful, cute four-year-old. She was a happy girl. She played around a lot and was very active.
‘I think she had started nursery but I don’t know that for sure.’
Mr Maricar added: ‘The 11-year-old boy is injured but I don’t know his condition or if he is still in hospital.
‘I feel very, very sad about what has happened. It is just a terrible situation.
‘The family had tried to get hold of the gas company a couple of times last week and neighbours had been trying to get hold of the gas company.
‘The mum is working in the NHS as a receptionist in a GP.’
In remembrance of the young girl, bouquets of flowers and approximately ten teddy bears were left at the scene, along with chalk messages on a nearby sidewalk.
Earlier today, a police cordon was expanded at the area and an additional 50 houses were evacuated for fear of a second leak in the street, according to emergency personnel and a representative for the local council.
As today’s evacuations of adjoining residences progressed, the safety zone around the house that was entirely destroyed by the massive explosion has been relocated numerous times to a distance of about 650 feet.
200 individuals have already been forced to flee their homes, and that figure is expected to climb as cops continue to evacuate the community; nevertheless, council members have emphasised that this is a preventive step.
Hundreds of families have provided assistance to those afflicted, including providing clothing to those without any.
According to the council, contributions may be made at the Ascension Church in Pollards Hill.
And it has requested that a second evacuation facility be established in Croydon to meet the increased demand from communities.
Following the explosion, Merton Council is giving financial reimbursements as well as medical and emotional help to residents, citing their safety and support as its primary concern.
Outside Pollards Baptist Church, in Mitcham, council leader Ross Garrod said: ‘Our thoughts remain with the family of the young girl who tragically lost her life and we are working with emergency services to provide them with all they need now and going forward.’
He added: ‘I want to recognise and thank our fantastic community who have come together tirelessly over the last 48 hours.’
Mr Garrod also described a lingering ‘strong smell of gas’ and said it is understood that leaks ‘may take some days to stop’.
He also spoke of the council facing ‘real challenges’ when it comes to the insurance companies. ‘Many are refusing accommodation for home owners – this is unacceptable,’ he explained.
Today a local Labour MP said gas supplier is facing ‘serious questions’ over the incident at just after 7am on Monday, and why the street was not evacuated before the ‘terrible tragedy’.
Residents have said they could smell gas for ‘at least two weeks’ prior, with many experiencing headaches, dizziness and difficulty breathing in that time. They said neighbours had called gas engineers several days before, one told how the ‘potent’ stench felt like it was a ‘timebomb’ waiting to go off.
Employees of Southern Gas Networks, who had been carrying out works in the road at the time of the incident, have been pictured at the scene today.
Neighbours claim the family of a four-year-old girl who died in an explosion had called the gas company about a suspected leak but were ‘given an appointment.’
The London Fire Brigade confirmed this afternoon that the cordon has been extended further due to ‘elevated gas readings.’
A spokesperson for the service said the move had been requested by the government Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
A Galpin’s Road resident of 58 years, Bernadette, 87, said she last saw the young girl playing in her garden the day before the blast, and knows her grandmother. Speaking alongside her grandson, Callum, 20, Bernadette told the PA news agency: ‘I saw her playing in the garden the day before – she was playing with a ball with her little sister.
‘They’re a lovely family, they are always wanting to do something for you, always offering to help.
‘Yesterday when firefighters were still searching the debris, the children’s aunt and grandma brought food out to everybody, even in the middle of their distress.’
Children who live nearby have written touching tributes and toys have been left by the original cordon in memory of the young girl who was found dead in the rubble of the explosion.
Local MP Siobhan McDonagh said she has written to gas company SGN ‘demanding answers’ over the explosion in south London which killed a child on Monday.
The Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden said: ‘Clearly there are lots of questions that need answering: how was this allowed to happen, why weren’t people made aware, and why weren’t they evacuated before the terrible tragedy happened?
‘I want to express my condolences for the families on Galpin’s Street – this should never have happened and we will get to the bottom of it.
‘I’m sorry for the disruption to those who have been displaced.’
There is anger from resident at ‘unanswered questions’, with some people saying they had reported a strong smell of gas in the two weeks beforehand.
According to residents on the street, engineers had been digging holes along the road in recent days.
Dee Akomanyi, 45, who has lived on the street for around 30 years, said she could smell gas in her house the night before the explosion and said that nothing was done despite reports.
Standing with her 25-year-old daughter Zhane Akomanyi, she said: ‘Last night, I couldn’t sleep, I kept having these flashbacks, it’s traumatising.
‘It’s devastating, I could hear the screams from the parents when it all happened.’
The mother-of-one said she left her house less than 10 minutes before the blast and could smell what she believed to be gas.
She added: ‘Yesterday I left the house at around 6.55am and I smelt gas – it was really strong.
’10 minutes after we left there was an explosion.
‘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.’
Neighbour, Adele, who didn’t want to give her last name, explained she could smell ‘really strong gas’ over the weekend.
The mother-of-two, who lives just a few doors down from the collapsed house, said: ‘The whole house shook, it was a novelty for my kids at the time, but now it’s more of a shock impact for them as reality hit this morning.
‘Other families got off worse than me. We were the lucky ones.
‘We could smell gas really strong on Sunday.
‘I was getting headaches, lots of neighbours said they were dizzy because of it.’
One person said they could still smell gas after the blast, which shattered windows and severely damaged neighbouring properties.
It has been confirmed that emergency utility repair and maintenance works were being carried out on the road by Southern Gas Networks at the time of the incident, although residents report not seeing any workers for several days before the blast.
More than 100 people were evacuated to the nearby New Horizon’s Centre on Monday, where they were briefed on the situation by Merton Council officers, the Metropolitan Police and London Fire Brigade later in the evening.
Some grew agitated and raised their voices as they were told they would not be able to return to their homes and that workers had been unable to turn off the gas.
Reverend Deji Ayorinde, of the nearby Pollards Hill Baptist Church, said: ‘There is anger in the room. There is anger in the community surrounding unanswered questions.’
He said there was anger that no representatives of gas companies were at the briefing to answer questions.
A 48-year-old, who lives on Galpin’s Road and wished to remain anonymous, also said the gas company not turning up to the community centre to answer questions from residents was ‘disrespectful’.
She said: ‘They have not been here. Everyone is disgusted. It is heartbreaking, it is disrespectful. They owe it to the people who have supported the family.’
When asked about the claims residents could smell gas before the incident London Fire Brigade’s deputy assistant commissioner Richard Welch said yesterday: ‘Unfortunately we can’t say if it’s gas that’s caused it. It will become a police investigation now.
‘We dealt with the emergency phase of the incident and we will be handing it over to local authorities and local police.’
If confirmed to be a gas explosion, it would be the seventh in the last 15 months, with the previous blasts tragically killing four people – including a two-year-old boy, a 44-year-old women, a 79-year-old man and a 91-year-old pensioner.
While some have been described as ‘accidental gas explosions’, the explosion which killed two-year-old George Hinds in Heysham, Lancashire, in May last year, has seen two people charged over the incident and they will go on trial in October.
This morning’s explosion shook homes in the Thornton Heath area of London just after 7am, with the fire and subsequent rescue operation seeing 40 firefighters and six fire engines rushed to the scene supported by police and paramedics.
Before it was sadly verified that a four-year-old girl had died, The Sun claimed that two adults and an 11-year-old boy were rescued from the wreckage.
Southern Gas Networks, which was doing roadwork at the time of the explosion, offered its condolences and said that it is collaborating closely with the emergency services to determine the cause of the explosion.
Two neighbours, Kutoya Kukanda, 50, and Delroy Simms, 62, who have been acclaimed “heroes” for rescuing three children from the debris at about 7 a.m., believed that a small girl was still trapped within.
Mr. Simms said that Mr. Kukanda handed him children as bricks continued to fall from the building.
Mr Kukanda, who had a bruise on his shin from a falling brick, said: ‘I heard boom, then I opened the door.
‘I saw smoke, the house had collapsed, and people were screaming inside.
‘I went inside and took the first baby – there were three children.
‘I took one of the children, gave it to him (Mr Simms).
‘The mother was screaming and saying: ‘One of my daughters is still inside’.’
Si Mahmood, 49, who lives on the street, said: ‘I heard a massive bang which sounded pretty scary. It sounded like thunder. Unfortunately I think it was a gas leak. I saw gas people there doing some work after the explosion and I know there are gas pipes under the street.’
Maureen Clare, 74, said that there were four children and a mother living in the terrace house in Croydon. She said: ‘They’re very lively kids. They were always mischievous, happy and bouncing around.’
Awais Zahir, 26, said: ‘I went to the house and saw the mum come out. She was bleeding from both her hands and trying to look for her kids.
‘She found all but one of her kids.
‘The fire brigade have just told the family she died. She was about four years old.
‘We live opposite the kids’ grandmother. At around 7am I heard the explosion and I assumed it was construction work.
‘I saw the grandmother trying to get to her daughter’s house.
‘A couple of people were gathered around the mum and she was shaking and screaming ‘I can’t find my child.’
‘We know the grandmother as she lives opposite our house. The mum often brings the kids to her mum’s house and you can hear them in the morning.
‘The window of the house that exploded shattered into a field behind it.’
Mr Simms added that the house next door was also damaged, and he saw a man he presumed to be the occupant standing on top of ‘around eight feet of rubble, digging with his hands’ as he searched for his partner.
Mr Simms said: ‘I went and got him a pair of shoes.
‘He said: ‘My wife is still in there.’ Everything was chaotic.
‘He was trying to dig his way down but then the fire brigade came and told him to come down because it might blow again.
‘They told us to get back.’ Mr Simms’ wife, Elene, said: ‘We want to know why the gas board aren’t here. It’s been more than two weeks.’
Charlie Camdell, 36, who lives four doors down from the blast said: ‘Every morning I get up at 5am and I started my normal routine.
‘I was in the front room when the inside of our window shattered.
‘My partner said ‘there has been a gas explosion’ because she had been smelling the gas for a few days.
‘I can’t smell anything at all now.
‘I have seen people maintaining it and they had dug into the road before it.
‘For the last week or so you could really strongly smell gas.
‘Someone was shouting ‘what about my child’ and they were just crying saying ‘they can’t find her body’.’
Richard Welch, London Fire Brigade deputy assistant commissioner: ‘We are working with the local authority to make sure any medication or whatever else is being provided.’
Neighbours said they had reported a strong gas smell two weeks ago and others said they had been feeling dizzy and sick over the last two days.
One person said they were still able to smell gas after the blast which shattered windows and severely damaged neighbouring properties as other houses in the area were also evacuated.
A mother was crying in the street for her son as his bedroom was opposite the completely destroyed house, said one local.
The 25-year-old woman told MyLondon: ‘His mum was out on the street crying ‘My boy, my boy’.
‘They took him to hospital and we’ve heard since that he’s ok.’
She added that a ‘little girl’ and her dad escaped the destroyed house, and that the mother was rescued afterwards.
One resident, who lives on nearby Carisbrooke Road, said: ‘I heard the explosion at 7am, it was just the biggest bang you’ll ever hear.
‘So I went down the road to see what happened this morning and the whole house is gone, people living nearby said all their windows shook.
‘There was police, fire engines, a helicopter going around overhead. There’s not actually a fire from what I saw but you can still really smell gas, even two roads away where I am. They’re evacuating people from the houses nearby as they’re worried about another explosion.
‘There was a little girl of about 10 or 11 stood outside with a blanket bless her, god knows how she got out of that but she’s being treated for burns.
‘They were saying her older brother was still inside but he later got taken out OK I think.’
Dominic Francis, 41, and his partner heard a loud bang this morning, he said: ‘It is the third or fourth house explosion in the UK recently.
‘Something is wrong, I am worried it will happen to us.’
One Facebook user said: ‘I heard it whilst getting ready for work and thought it sounded like an explosion but was hoping I was wrong and that it was at a building site or something.’
Another added: ‘That was one loud bang thought a bomb had gone off’.
A London Ambulance Service spokesperson said: ‘This morning, alongside colleagues from London Fire Brigade, we attended an incident in Galpin’s Road, Thornton Heath.
‘We treated four people. One was discharged on scene and three others were taken to hospital. Sadly, a child was also pronounced dead at the scene.
‘All London Ambulance Service crews have now been stood down.’
Merton council said in a statement: ‘We are working with London Fire Brigade and the Metropolitan Police following a major incident at Galpins Road in Pollards Hill.
‘Emergency services are on site following a gas explosion at a residential property, at least one property has been destroyed. We are urging people to avoid the area.
‘Firefighters are currently carrying out systematic searches and working to make the scene safe.
‘An evacuation centre has been established at the New Horizons Centre.’
A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said in a statement: ‘Six fire engines and around 40 firefighters have been called to a fire and explosion on Galpin’s Road in Thornton Heath.
‘A terraced house has collapsed following an explosion.
‘The Brigade’s 999 Control Officers have taken 13 calls to the incident.
‘The Brigade was called at 0708. Fire crews from Norbury, Mitcham, West Norwood, Woodside and surrounding fire stations attended the scene.
‘The cause of the fire and explosion is not known at this time.’