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Residents can return to homes after fatal gas blast

Police at a cordon near the scene on Galpin’s Road, Thornton Heath (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Police at a cordon near the scene on Galpin’s Road, Thornton Heath (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Residents evacuated after a gas explosion in south London which killed a four-year-old girl are being allowed to return to their homes.

Sahara Salman died after a terraced house collapsed in Galpin’s Road, Thornton Heath, shortly after 7am on Monday.

Around 80 houses have been cordoned off since, but the first families are to be allowed back on Friday afternoon after around 30 houses were declared “gas safe”.

They will be escorted by gas engineers and police officers wearing bodycams, to assist with the investigation that has been launched into the tragedy.

Sahara Salman death
Sahara Salman, four, who died in the gas explosion (Metropolitan Police/PA)

It comes as the eighth “gold meeting” of the week between Merton Council, the police, fire brigade and representatives from Southern Gas Networks (SGN) and the Health and Safety Executive will take place on Friday afternoon amid mounting community fury at the tragedy.

The toddler’s mother, Sana Ahmad, and neighbours have accused utility firm SGN of “negligence” by failing to act on months of complaints about the smell of gas.

A text sent by Merton Council to more than 100 residents on Galpin’s Road at 2pm on Friday, seen by the PA news agency, said: “We’re currently working with SGN on a plan to help residents return to homes from today when their properties are checked as gas safe.

“Those living on Galpin’s Road north of the Berkshire Way junction will be the first to go back.

“We will communicate with residents from today to arrange for keys so that gas inspections can be undertaken and properties deemed safe for return.”

Thornton Heath incident
The scene in Galpin’s Road (PA)

Three other people were seriously injured in the disaster, with an 11-year-old boy and a 54-year-old woman still in hospital on Thursday but not in a serious condition.

The Metropolitan Police’s Specialist Crime Command has launched a probe into the blast.

At an angry community meeting on Thursday, residents accused the local gas provider of having “blood on their hands” and said they made at least 18 calls reporting gas smells in the days and weeks leading up to the explosion.

Dozens of gas vans and detectives are still present in the 200-metre long cordon zone digging up the street, through which a main gas pipe runs, to establish what went wrong.