Dozens of residents evacuated after a gas explosion killed a child on their street have not been able to go home almost one month on – while others said they had been advised to return “at their own risk”.
More than 500 people were evacuated from Galpin’s Road in Thornton Heath, Merton, after a blast destroyed a terraced house and killed four-year-old Sahara Salman shortly after 7am on August 8.
Three other people were seriously injured in the south London incident, including an 11-year-old boy and a 54-year-old woman.
One Galpin’s Road resident, who did not wished to be named, told the PA news agency that “around 50 people” are still living in hotels 26 days later, after being told their properties fell within the “red zone” of destruction.
Merton Council said that this was due to the cul-de-sac being inaccessible to emergency services vehicles, rather than due to the houses being structurally unsound.
But residents said they have not been allowed even to retrieve possessions including clothes, after many were evacuated in their pyjamas on the day of the explosion.
“Red zone” resident Tristan Simms, 31, has been staying in a hotel since the explosion and he told PA that he feels “on edge” – while his neighbours who have returned are “scared to turn on their cookers”.
His family has been told by the council that their earliest return date is October 14.
Mr Simms said: “We’re still in the same predicament, we have no exact answer as to how long we’re going to be here.
“I still jump up when someone knocks on the door – I don’t feel settled. We’re on edge.
“We’re going into winter and we need to prepare, we’ve got no jackets because we can’t go home. We’ve got to buy a lot of these things again.
“The communication is really not great, and as the residents we are the ones who are pulling together with our own little group chat to get things in order.”
When asked whether he felt safe to return home in October, Mr Simms said: “No. And the fact that they’re willing to tell people, ‘go in at your own risk’ shows a pure lack of care.
“Your boiler is condemned. People are scared to turn on their cookers.”
Another resident in the “red zone” said the council had promised to source uniforms for her children ahead of the new school year, but she ended up having to appeal to their headteacher to secure the clothes in time.
The mother, who did not wish to be named, said: “We haven’t had our lives back for all this time – it’s horrible.
“We haven’t been given gas safety documents to prove our homes are safe, and some people have cracks in their walls.”
A 21-year-old resident from outside the “red zone” said that although her family had been allowed to return, they chose not to because they did not feel safe.
She added that they are all “looking into therapy” because of the impact of the “dire situation” on their mental health.
“A lot of us don’t feel safe from what we’ve heard and no written confirmation of safety has been given to us,” she said.
“It’s a dire situation, and this is from someone outside the cordon, so I can’t imagine what it was like for people whose houses were destroyed.”
House number 255 was obliterated by the explosion, while two neighbouring terraced homes suffered extensive damage and several more suffered smashed windows.
The gas company responsible for supplying the street, Southern Gas Networks (SGN), previously donated £500,000 to help the council support affected neighbours.
The Metropolitan Police’s Specialist Crime Command has launched a criminal investigation into the explosion.
Merton Council has been contacted for comment.