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Street where girl died in blast declared ‘gas-safe’ as residents set to return

The scene in Galpin’s Road in Thornton Heath, south London (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
The scene in Galpin’s Road in Thornton Heath, south London (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The south London street where a four-year-old girl was killed in a suspected gas explosion has been declared “gas-safe” and evacuated residents will begin returning this weekend.

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

Three other people were seriously injured in the disaster, including an 11-year-old boy and a 54-year-old woman.

Around 80 houses have been cordoned off since amid mounting community fury over the tragedy, with residents accusing the utility firm Southern Gas Networks (SGN) of having “blood on their hands”.

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

The Metropolitan Police’s Specialist Crime Command has launched a criminal investigation.

Dozens of families on the street have now been asked by Merton Council to hand over their keys for final safety inspections by gas engineers and police officers collecting evidence via body cameras on Saturday, before they are escorted back to their homes.

In texts to 100 residents on Friday afternoon, seen by the PA news agency, the council said “Galpin’s Road is now gas-safe”, meaning there is no remaining residual gas.

The house inspections will check there are no interruptions in gas supply when it is turned back on, and the council expects the 55 properties to be occupied again by early next week. The remaining tranche will then follow.

The local authority initially said residents would return on Friday, but following a “gold meeting” between the council, police and fire chiefs it was decided to delay it by 24 hours.

Neighbours of the collapsed house told PA at the New Horizon Centre, the local evacuation hub, that they were “left in limbo” with conflicting information and wanted to return home.

Some were struggling to attend their workplaces because of distant hotels, while others had pet animals left unfed for days.

Sahara Salman
Sahara Salman (Metropolitan Police/PA)

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

The NHS receptionist, 28, paid tribute to “the most incredible little girl”, who was due to turn five and start school next month.

At an angry community meeting on Thursday night attended by an SGN boss, residents accused the firm 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.