Residents express anger at gas company following Thornton Heath explosion

Residents who were forced to flee their homes after a deadly blast in south London have claimed the local gas company had “blood on their hands”.

Our one-year-old Sahara Salman was killed and two others remain in hospital after the explosion that happened just after 7am on Thornton Heath on Monday.

At a community meeting on South Lodge Avenue, Mitcham, local residents said that in the days and weeks before the blast, at least 18 calls were made to gas company SGN from Galpin’s Road, where the blast took place, about the smell of gas.


Sahara Salman died in gas explosion in south London (Met Police)

Speaking to around 100 residents at the local community center, SGN’s executive operations director Martin Holloway said the firm was “shocked and saddened” by Sahara’s death.

Mr Holloway said: “We send our sincere condolences to her family and our thoughts are absolutely with the other injured and affected residents. We really understand the impact this has had on the local community and we have been here on the ground this week working with Merton Council to provide support and assistance.

“I would also like to assure you that we are all working very closely with investigators, the police and the Health and Safety Agency to understand exactly what led to Monday’s explosion.

“While I know it’s frustrating given the ongoing police investigation, I can’t speak about what happened leading up to the blast. I know it’s difficult because people want answers about what’s happening.”

Residents began yelling at Mr Holloway, who had to stop speaking.


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

Two residents walked out of the meeting while yelling at the company representative, with one calling the investigation a “whitewashing.”

A local resident said the company had “blood on their hands,” while another called for answers as “don’t just blow up houses.”

Thursday night’s meeting marked the first time a representative from SGN came to speak with local residents affected by the blast.

Mr Holloway appeared alongside local MP Siobhain McDonagh, Chairman of Merton Council Ross Garrod and Metropolitan Police Inspector Barrie Capper.

A man who lived on Galpin’s Road told Mr Holloway: “A little girl lost her life because of the way you took your time and how many people told you there was a problem.”

Mr Holloway confirmed that “the full history, both electronic and paper,” of all work carried out by SGN on Galpin’s Road would be available to the police for their investigation.

He added that the company will also make a “voluntary goodwill contribution” to the local council after the blast.

Local residents have been told by SGN that the road “would be safe tomorrow from a gas standpoint” and that those inside the outer cordon will be able to return to their homes from Friday, subject to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) approval.

AJ Sowe, who lived six houses away from the blast and whose patio doors were blown away by the blast, told the PA news agency he was unhappy with the gas network’s response.

He was evacuated on Tuesday after the cordon was extended due to safety concerns and the possibility of a second explosion.

He said: “I was expecting to come here for concrete answers about what happened and what will happen in the future.

“And what was given to me is the lack of confidence I already had in SGN that they left 18 complaints unheard, then they allowed the workforce to go beyond a period of three and a half weeks without resolving this issue because then one happens Explosion and a child dies.”

He expressed anger at gas workers “giggling a little” and “sharing popsicles” at the site on Tuesday while he and several other residents waited outside the cordon for updates on the situation.

Keri, who wished to be known by only her first name, stood up to tell the panel she had been paid just £40 to support her family of seven while they stayed in a hotel following their evacuation.

She exclaimed, “I called the gas company myself; I called her and do you know what the lady said to me? ‘Oh, we’re aware honey, just bear with us.’

“I came up at 5:30 this morning, I smelled gas, I smelled burning oil. And I got in a cab and God forbid the explosion happened and took me in that cab.”

She added, “I’m wearing other people’s clothes because of this, and you’re going to sit here and say, ‘Oh, we’ll come to you, we’ll do this, we’ll do that.’

“What will happen to me and my family next Tuesday?”

The meeting began with a minute’s silence for Sahara, and Ms McDonagh shared a message from Sahara’s mother, who was not present at Thursday’s meeting, saying she was “thinking of you and thinking of you as family”. Residents express anger at gas company following Thornton Heath explosion

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