Local heroes rush in to devastated scene to pull children from the rubble, as emergency services evacuate 40 more homes
2.30pm UPDATE: A child was killed in the massive explosion at a house in Thornton Heath this morning, according to reports from the emergency services.
Four others were rescued from the property on Galpins Road, after the entire building collapsed following the blast. One was discharged at the scene, but three were taken to hospital where they were said to have potentially life-threatening injuries.
In a statement issued by the London Ambulance Service just after 2pm confirmed that “a child was pronounced dead at the scene”.
Ambulance crews have now been stood down.
Merton Council are treating the explosion as a “major incident”, and have established an emergency evacuation centre for the affected households.
The terraced house was reduced to rubble by the explosion, leaving a gap in the row of houses. Some neighbouring properties have also been damaged, according to the London Fire Brigade.
It was “the biggest bang you’ll ever hear”, according to one local.
Neighbours reported seeing a child being carried out on a stretcher and a man receiving treatment for burns.
At lunchtime, the Fire Brigade was still refusing to confirm the cause of the explosion and fire, although some reports linked the incident to a gas leak, and 40 neighbouring households were evacuated while the police cordoned off the area, which is on the Merton side of the borough boundary.
Richard Welch, the deputy assistant commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, confirmed a search is underway for a missing person.
“Four people have been rescued by the fire brigade,” he told Sky News. “Our urban search-and-rescue crews continue to search for one more missing person.
“The cause of the fire and explosion is not known at this time.”
Six fire engines and around 40 firefighters were called out to the scene just after 7am.
The Brigade’s 999 control officers took 14 calls to the incident.
Fire crews from Norbury, Mitcham, West Norwood, Woodside and surrounding fire stations are at the scene.
Galpins Road has been closed between Berkshire Way and South Lodge Avenue following the blaze, with a police cordon in place. Westmoreland Way has also been closed, with bus routes 152 and 255 placed on diversion.
Residents told the Press Association news agency that gas engineers had been working on the street in the days before the explosion.
Locals Delroy Simms and Kutoya Kukanda said they helped rescued three children from the rubble immediately after the explosion this morning.
“I was getting ready to go to work when I heard the explosion,” Simms said.
“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.”
Simms said that he and his neighbour rushed to the scene, and that Kukanda passed children out to him as bricks were still falling from wrecked house.
Kukanda 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.
“The mother was screaming and saying: ‘One of my daughters is still inside’.
“Everything was falling.”
Simms said that there had been a gas leak reported on the street in the days beforehand. “I already knew what it was because that gas was smelling all week, really strong. It was giving me a headache yesterday,” he said.
“My neighbour has been calling them [gas company] all week.”
Amy Kaur was another eye-witness, who said her windows shattered from the force of the explosion.
“I thought about the kids and I ran down the road,” she told PA.
“The night before I was gasping for air, so I took my asthma inhaler out before sleeping.
“The next morning, it felt like it got dark and the air was weird – like it was being sucked in – and then ‘boom’.
“I rang the police, there were dozens of people running down the street.”
Kaur described the efforts of Simms and Kukanda, the two men who helped rescue the children, as “heroic”.
“That’s human kindness, that two people risked their lives to go in without knowing the consequences themselves,” she said.
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