Six months after a gas explosion killed a four-year-old girl, the victim’s mum and her three other children are still  living on these makeshift mattresses on the floor.

Family are still sleeping on the floor six months on

The blast destroyed their four-bed family home

Speaking on the six month anniversary of Sahara Salman’s death, her mother Sana Ahmad criticised Merton Council for not providing suitable accommodation for the family – including siblings now aged two, seven and nine –  who are living four doors from the blast site in the front room of their grandmother’s home.

More than 500 people were evacuated from Galpins Road, Thornton Heath, after multiple gas explosions on  August 8 which destroyed three houses, causing extensive damage to properties and safety fears over leaking gas mains.

Houses around the blast site remain boarded up and many homes are too dangerous to return to with 29 families still in temporary accommodation including in hotels across South London.

It also emerged that two other victims trapped in the debris of the blast had been in intensive care – including a child – suffering from severe burns with dozens more residents being treated for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

It took over seven hours for emergency workers to rescue the lifeless body of little Sahara from the debris of the explosion after the wall of the next-door house collapsed on to her bed while the four-year-old was sleeping.

Residents won't stay quiet anymore

Faryall speaks out flanked by grieving mum Sana

Victim of explosion: four-year-old Sahara

Sana’s representative, Faryall Hussain, speaking on her behalf at a memorial last Wednesday said she was ‘disgusted’ that the  family were still ‘homeless’ and was also critical of the police saying they hadn’t updated Sana, who she described as a ‘vulnerable victim’ about the investigation in to the cause of  the explosion since December.

Council leader and officers speak with Sana after the rally

Council leader and officers speak with Sana and Faryall after the rally

Sana has been offered three, three-bed properties and a flat by the council but says they were not suitable for her family. She said in a statement: “Despite this tragedy, we are still homeless and sleeping on the floor. My three children and I have lost everything, and it’s devastating to see them without their belongings and a place to call home. They miss their sister and are scared to go to school. We deserve support in this difficult time, but it feels like we’ve been left to fend for ourselves.

“Despite the pain and chaos of this tragic ordeal, I am resolute in seeking justice for my beloved daughter, Sahara. My four wonderful children are my pride and motivation, driving me to fight for justice for what happened just after 7am on August 8.

She added: “I stand with Galpins Road residents in seeking meaningful support and assistance from the government. I implore the Met Police, Merton council, and government to provide answers, justice, and accountability for the tragic gas explosion that took my daughter’s life. It is unacceptable that our community has been left to deal with the aftermath alone, and we need the necessary help and support to move forward.”

Faryall said that the small number of the family’s possessions which were recovered from the house,  including children’s toys and clothing, were ruined with nothing fit to salvage blaming the authorities for a lack of ’empathy’.

Family have created a gallery of teddies and messages to Sahara where the three houses once stood

Family have created a gallery of teddies and messages to Sahara

Sana said: “I was devastated to discover that our personal belongings had been destroyed and thrown into a skip, I witnessed a grabber smashing my former home into pieces. Living just a few doors down, I saw the entire ordeal.

Possessions unsalvageable

“The toys, clothes, and other items were smashed and ripped, with dust, glass, and debris covering them. Sadly, the few items that were recovered were damaged and no longer held sentimental value, wiping away my final memories of my daughter. Seeing the condition of our belongings brought me to tears, particularly when it came to my deceased daughter’s broken toys. It added to my already overwhelming devastation and trauma.

'It's such a lonely road without you here'

‘It’s such a lonely road without you here’

“The treatment of a mourning mother regarding our belongings was disgraceful, lacking in empathy. This left me to search through what appeared to be a rubbish heap or malodorous stable. The abandoned items were left in plain sight at the Chaucer Centre’s open car park, where locals and staff could witness me disposing of damaged belongings from my previous home. It was a humiliating and degrading experience.”

Last Wednesday, the leader of Merton council Ross Garrod and officers had arrived on Galpins Road with flowers to what was meant to be a ‘quiet’ memorial service in front of  the boarded up site which had once been three family homes and is now decorated with tributes to Sahara.

However, the gathering turned in to an opportunity for residents to share their stories with many wanting to support Sana in her stand and raise the plight of all residents coping with the aftermath of the gas explosion and wanting answers.

Retired couple don’t expect to move home until end of year

Drone captures extent of carnage

Sana had raised her concerns with gas distribution company SGN on July 30, nine
days before the explosion. Others had also complained about the smell of gas and SGN were investigating and carrying out repairs including on the Friday (August 5).  Residents reported feeling dizzy and sick over that weekend before the blast on Monday (August 8).

Sana added: “Half a year ago, a tragic incident completely disrupted the lives of myself, my children and every resident who lived on Galpins Road. The loss of my beloved daughter has left us devastated, and the ongoing pain felt by our family, friends, and community is indescribable.

“The ongoing gas repair work by SGN on Galpins Road and around our local area is intensifying our fear of a similar tragedy. I am seeking explanations for why the work continues six months after the explosion and what went wrong.

“It is unacceptable that a gas explosion occurred nine days after I reported the gas smell, leading to the death of my child.  The gas explosion that claimed my child’s life, is unforgivable.”

SGN said there has been ‘no admission of liability’ from any party about the cause of the explosion.

A spokeswoman for SGN added: “Our thoughts remain with the family of Sahara and all those who have been affected by what happened in Galpin’s Road. SGN continue to assist the Metropolitan Police and HSE with their ongoing investigation.”

Galpins Road is in Thornton Heath but on the border between Croydon and Merton. Residents whose lives and homes have been devastated by the explosion live in Merton.

The costs to Merton council currently exceeds £2.5million, including support for the residents throughout the whole six-month period. The council also doesn’t own any housing stock as it was transferred to to Clarion Housing Association in 2010 and so finding suitable property to house those made homeless in the blast  has proved difficult.

Council Leader,  Ross Garrod, in a statement said: “The gas explosion at Galpin’s Road has devastated our community and it will be a while before we have the answers that we need.

“Since that tragic day, six months ago, the council has been doing everything it can to support those affected, including Ms Ahmad and her family. We are continuing our efforts to find a suitable property for the family.”

Siobhain McDonagh, the MP for Mitcham and Morden which includes the area affected by the blast, has in the past criticised the government for offering “very little help” to residents.

A Met spokesman said that the Met Specialist Crime Command continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding a gas explosion in Thornton Heath in conjunction with the Health and Safety Executive [HSE].

Detective Chief Inspector Katherine Goodwin of the Met’s Specialist Crime Command said: “This is an extremely complex investigation and we are working with the Health and Safety Executive in following all lines of enquiry, many of which are very specialist in their nature.

“My thoughts, and those of the team, remain with Sahara’s family and friends as well as those injured and affected by the explosion. We are committed to providing answers to the people of Galpin’s Road as expeditiously as we can. “