The mother of a four-year-old girl who died in a gas explosion in south London has paid tribute to her “amazing” daughter and questioned why the “gas problem has been neglected for such a long time”.

Sahara Salman’s body was recovered from the ruins of a terraced house in Galpin’s Road, Thornton Heath, on Monday.

Her mother Sana Ahmad, in comments reported by the London Evening Standard, said the explosion was “like missiles were dropped on the properties”.

Following Sahara’s death a month before her fifth birthday, Mrs Ahmad said her family has lost its “pride and joy”, describing her daughter as “the most incredible little girl”.

And she said she believed the incident could have been prevented if people “did their job properly” – as she told how her mother identified a smell in the area on July 30, with a call being made to report it that afternoon.

A number of Thornton Heath residents, several of whom recalled a strong smell of gas in the prior two weeks, have expressed outrage over the blast.

A spokesman for SGN, the gas company, said this week: “We understand the local community has also been deeply affected by the serious incident and we’d like to reassure everyone we are working closely with investigators and assisting the emergency services.

“SGN will continue to have a presence on site in the coming days.

“Given the ongoing police investigation, we are unable to comment any further at this stage.”

Ms Ahmad said: “The saddest thing is that we tried to prevent this from happening.”

She said the “biggest question” is “why the gas problem has been neglected for such a long time”.

She had “so many plans in place” for her daughter, who was due to start school in September and whose new uniform was ready in the house.

She said: “This world didn’t deserve somebody who was so special. It’s our loss. She was the most amazing thing to ever walk this planet.”

Describing the day of the explosion, Mrs Ahmad said she had been on the phone to her mother, who was going to collect the children, and “within seconds she heard me scream because there was a big bang”.

By the time she got to the hallway, “Sahara’s room had collapsed already”.

She said her family did everything they could, with her father and brother pulling the other children to safety.

An 11-year-old boy and 54-year-old woman hurt in the blast remain in hospital, with neither in a life-threatening condition.