“Blood on their hands”: South London gas explosion shows privatised utilities can’t be trusted

by Reece Wilson

Four-year-old Sahara Salman died in a gas explosion in Thornton Heath, South London on 8 August. Two others were hospitalised and other houses in the neighbourhood had to be evacuated.

Photo: PA Media

At a community meeting on 12 August, residents confronted Martin Holloway, the executive operations director for SGN – the gas company responsible for gas supply in South London. Holloway claimed he was “shocked and saddened” about Sahara’s death. He was shouted down and forced to stop speaking. Two residents walked out saying that the investigation will be a whitewash, another pointing out: “Houses don’t just blow up”.

According to residents, at least 18 calls were made to the company about the smell of gas in the weeks leading up to the explosion.

This is another damning case of the danger we are in with utilities in private ownership. Profit-seeking SGN did not take action to keep infrastructure in a safe enough condition to prevent the tragedy. The same is happening across the board, with private water companies dumping sewage into bodies of water and train companies trying to make safety critical guards work longer hours, and remove ticket offices.

Utility companies need to be nationalised not just because they are profiteering while the rest of us suffer from real pay cuts, but because it can be a matter of life and death.