A “HAPPY” four-year-old girl has been killed in a horror house collapse following an explosion in South London.
London Ambulance Service said the child was pronounced dead at the scene in Galpin’s Road, Thornton Heath, on Monday.
Her next of kin have been informed and are being supported by specially trained officers, the Metropolitan Police said.
Four others were injured in the devastation after the terraced house was razed to the ground amid a blast that sent debris flying hundreds of feet into the air.
Two adults and an 11-year-old boy were rescued from the wreckage of the property and a desperate search was launched to find the missing girl, London Fire Brigade said.
Three have been taken to hospital with life-changing injuries, a further person was treated at the scene.
More than 100 people have been evacuated from the area following the horror at around 7am this morning, which has now been confirmed by Merton Council as being caused by a gas explosion.
A resident described the children who lived in the house as “lively” and “happy”.
Maureen Clare, 74, said there were four children and a mother living in the terrace house.
Ms Clare, who lives opposite and was visibly shaken by the incident, said: “They’re very lively kids.
Most read in UK News
“They were always mischievous, happy and bouncing around.”
Following the tragedy, Richard Welch, Deputy Assistant Commissioner at London Fire Brigade (LFB), said: “Firefighters carried out a substantial search of the property.
“Sadly a child was pronounced dead at the scene.
“Our thoughts are with their family, friends and the local community at this time.”
Those injured were from the collapsed property and surrounding homes.
The fire brigade said they were not conducting any further searches for anyone else but will continue to work on the scene through the rest of the day and overnight.
Around 40 properties have been evacuated as a precaution and a 50 metre cordon is now in place, Mr Welch added.
Six fire engines and around 45 firefighters were on the scene in three minutes, according to LFB.
Shocking images from the area show the scale of the devastation with numerous homes damaged in the explosion.
And one harrowing picture shows a child’s bedroom gutted by the blast – a toy can be seen on the wall.
An eyewitness who lives opposite the explosion told The Sun: “I heard a huge boom and when I opened my curtains the whole street was full of smoke.
“Straight away I heard a woman screaming for help. They were still inside the house. Everyone ran out to help her.
“The whole house was completely flattened. There is nothing left of it. It’s just a pile of rubble.
“Windows across the street have been blown out and cars are smashed up.
“They managed to get some of the children out but one child we think is still trapped underneath.
“I don’t know what’s happened to them. Their mum is still there.”
Another resident from further down the street said their door had blown open when the explosion happened.
And a mum was heard screaming in the street for “my boy” amid the heart-breaking scenes, MyLondon reported.
Ross Garrod, the leader of Merton Council, confirmed the devastation was the result of a gas explosion, saying: “We’re all devastated by today’s news at the tragic death of a child as a result of a gas explosion at Galpin’s Road.
“Our thoughts and hearts are with the family affected, and I know everyone in our community will feel the same.
“Residents rightly have questions that they want answers to, and a full investigation is underway by the relevant authorities.”
He added the council has opened an evacuation centre at the New Horizons Centre in Croydon and so far had supported around 100 residents.
Residents were being housed in nearby accommodation by the council, with one telling PA that authorities said it could take five to 10 days before they could go home.
Mr Garrod added that the community has been “torn apart by tragedy” following the child’s death.
He told journalists: “We have been overwhelmed by the kindness that residents and local groups have shown to other members of their community and thank everyone for their understanding.
“This is such an inspiring community, today it has been torn apart by tragedy.
“But we will keep pulling together and keep doing everything we can to support those affected.”
Residents on the street told The Sun gas works had been taking place for “four weeks”.
But a spokesperson for gas company SGN who were conducting works on the street told The Sun their engineers are working closely with emergency services to establish the cause of the explosion.
They added: “Following the explosion in Galpin’s Road, Thornton Heath earlier today, our deepest sympathies are with the family of the child who has tragically died as well as those who have been injured.
“We’d like to reassure everyone that our engineers are working closely with the emergency services to establish the cause of the explosion.
“Given the ongoing Police investigation, it is inappropriate to comment any further at this stage.”
The mother was screaming and saying: ‘One of my daughters is still inside’. Everything was falling.
Kutoya Kukanda, rescuer
People who had been evacuated from Galpin’s Road in their pyjamas told how their windows had shattered from the force of the explosion.
Two neighbours, Kutoya Kukanda, 50, and Delroy Simms, 62, said they helped rescue three children from the rubble at around 7am.
But they feared a girl was still trapped inside.
Mr Simms said: “I was getting ready to go to work when I heard the explosion.
“I already knew what it was because that gas was smelling all week, really strong. It was giving me a headache yesterday.
“My neighbour has been calling them (gas engineers) all week. When I heard the explosion it was like an earthquake.
“It shook me up, and my house. The shutters on our windows blew off their hinges. I went to the window and saw the devastation.”
Mr Simms said that Mr Kukanda passed children out to him as bricks were still falling from the structure.
Mr Kukanda, who had a bruise on his shin from a falling brick, said: “I heard boom, then I opened the door.
“I saw smoke, the house had collapsed, and people were screaming inside.
“I went inside and took the first baby – there were three children. I took one of the children, gave it to him (Mr Simms).
“The mother was screaming and saying: ‘One of my daughters is still inside’. Everything was falling.”
Mr Simms added that the house next door was also damaged, and he saw a man he presumed to be the occupant standing on top of “around eight feet of rubble, digging with his hands” as he searched for his partner.
Straight away I heard a woman screaming for help. They were still inside the house. Everyone ran out to help her
Mr Simms added: “I went and got him a pair of shoes.
“He said: ‘My wife is still in there.’ Everything was chaotic.
“He was trying to dig his way down but then the fire brigade came and told him to come down because it might blow again. They told us to get back.”
They believed the children’s mother had been evacuated.
They said the house next door had also been badly affected by the blast.
Some residents at the cordon said they had reported a strong gas smell two weeks ago, and others said they had been feeling dizzy and sick over the last two days.
Others said engineers had been working on the street and digging holes in people’s homes in recent days to resolve the issue.
Reverend Deji Ayorinde, of the nearby Pollards Hill Baptist Church, told the PA news agency: “There is anger in the community surrounding unanswered questions.”
He said there was anger that no representatives of gas companies were at the briefing to answer questions.
“This thing was reported and it still wasn’t resolved days or weeks later,” he said.
“Who takes ownership for that? The anger has built up because it has now cost a life and that’s a catalyst for the strength of emotion around this.”
Residents living nearby described hearing the explosion.
One lady who lives just a few doors down from where the blast happened wrote on Facebook: “I’m very shaken.”
Meanwhile another said: “The bang frightened the life out of me.
“I’m opposite Galpin’s, they have the helicopter circling & can hear sirens.”
A third added: “I don’t even live close but I thought I heard a massive bang around that time and couldn’t figure out what it could be.
“I know sound travels. I hope the residents are all safe.”
One woman, who lives three and a half miles away in Colliers Wood, added: “Did we just have an earthquake? Did anyone else feel that?”
Fire crews from Norbury, Mitcham, West Norwood, Woodside and surrounding fire stations were called to the scene around 7.08am this morning.