A mum badly injured in a gas explosion at her home near Thornton Heath that killed a little girl living nearby has described how she laid under the rubble for up to five hours.

Eleven months on from the tragedy in Galpin’s Road, Pollards Hill that took the life of four-year-old Sahara Salman, Elaine McDonald, 55, has spoken to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) about the impacts of that fateful day and how she’ll live with her injuries for the rest of her life.

Hundreds of residents were evacuated from their homes after the explosion ripped through the terraced house after residents said they had noticed a strong smell of gas in the area for several weeks before the explosion on August 8.

Ms McDonald had been living on Galpin’s Road since 2012 with her son and partner Nigel Forde, 55. The mum said she and her partner were away shortly before the explosion and had noticed SGN (Southern Gas Networks) workers, the company responsible for the gas network in the area, on the street when they returned. Despite their presence, Ms McDonald said there was no sense of “urgency” from the workers and the couple carried on their routine as normal, right up until the morning of August 8.

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Ms McDonald told the LDRS: “I switched on the kettle, I turned around to walk back to the table. I was going to just hang around until it’s boiled obviously, and I heard a sound. Just a small sound, I can’t recall if it was a click or what. And then, boom. That was it.”

She added: “There was a boom, there was a flash and then after that, I don’t recall how long I was under debris. I came to a couple of times and it was horrific, because it was dark and I could hear sounds, either water or gas. So I was absolutely terrified. I thought there was going to be another explosion and then I blacked out again, and then the next time I came around I thought, ‘I’m still here,’ and then I just started punching.”

Mr Forde said he had been in the loft when the explosion in their home happened, just after 7am. He described the experience of rescuing his partner from the rubble of their home as “traumatic”, and said he felt like he was “in a daze” the entire time.

Mr Forde said: “I think it was about four to five hours before Elaine came out. I didn’t have any concept of time. I was barefoot, trying to help move rubble and stuff until the fire brigade had come and the main person who was in charge said that we all had to evacuate.”

Ms McDonald added: “I remember looking down and I could see my ankle, and I swear I saw bone. And then from that point onwards, I was gone. I don’t know if I passed out, I don’t know if they gave me something, I was gone. The next time I woke up, I was in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital burns unit.”

The mum said she suffered two broken ankles and burns to over half of her body, leading to severe nerve damage. She said she has since had skin grafts on her legs and continues to have an “ongoing battle” with infections, as the lower half of her limbs have still not healed fully.

Ms McDonald said: “I was told afterwards that they didn’t think they would need to do surgery because they didn’t think I would survive. I think I was in a coma for a couple of weeks, I’m not 100per cent sure… I’m lucky to have my foot to be honest because there’s screws going through the back of it and I still have a wheelchair and I still use use crutches.”

Mr Forde added: “It was mind blowing, it was confusing. I had to deal with so many issues. There were loads of people that wanted to help me but I couldn’t take their help, because I didn’t know how to accept it. My main focus was Elaine getting better.”

The mum said she was in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital from the day of the explosion until November 20, before being transferred for rehabilitation to learn to walk again in Roehampton. She said that despite limited resources affecting her recovery, she is very thankful for the care she received.

Ms McDonald said: “It’s extremely frustrating. You’re grateful that you’re alive, I can’t take that away. I am extremely lucky, because a young child lost their life, so I’m extremely lucky. But to be a person that’s independent, all over the place, living a regular life like everybody else, to being in hospital, not being able to feed myself, not being able to go to the bathroom, not being able to walk. I had to learn to walk again, and I had great support.”

She said she receives mental health treatment from Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, as well as external physiotherapy and counselling to deal with her PTSD. Mr Forde said he had to stay in a hotel after the couple’s mortgaged home was destroyed in the blast, but has since found a “suitable” rented property for them both. He said the couple are still speaking to neighbours to aid the police and their lawyer in their separate investigations into the incident.

Ms McDonald said: “We haven’t got closure, we won’t get closure until the whole legal process, things like this and the investigation is conclusive, but there’ll be closure in terms of the legal side of things. But this is – you can see from my hand and the injuries I’ve got – something I’ve got to live with for the rest of my life.”

Law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp is currently conducting an investigation into the explosion and any potential leaks in the year leading up to the incident. The firm encourages anyone with information to contact them.

Ben Pepper, Senior Associate in the complex injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, said in a statement: “Almost a year after the explosion, some of the residents of Galpin’s Road are still living in hotels and with significant injuries and psychological harm caused by the events of 8 August. For example, we are acting for Elaine, who lived at 255 Galpin’s Road where the explosion originated. She sustained serious injuries including burns to almost half of her body and fractured ankles. We hope this investigation will assist in our case to establish liability and importantly, help Elaine and her family, and the other residents of Galpin’s Road who are still living in limbo, move forward.”

An SGN spokesperson told the LDRS: “Since last August, our thoughts have remained with the family of Sahara, the residents who were seriously injured and the wider community. We’re continuing to support the ongoing investigation, which is being led by the Metropolitan Police.”

The Met Specialist Crime Command said it was continuing its investigation into the circumstances surrounding the gas explosion. They said work was being done in conjunction with the Health and Safety Executive.

Detective Chief Inspector Katherine Goodwin of the Met’s Specialist Crime Command, told the LDRS: “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.”

A Merton Council spokesperson told the LDRS: “As the first anniversary of the Galpin’s Road approaches, we continue to provide support to those affected by this tragic incident and will continue to do so for as long as any resident needs it.”