At 9.40pm on Wednesday last week, three houses were demolished in Stanley Road, South Harrow,following a mysterious explosion. The blast, which left one resident dead and two in hospital, affected hundreds in the immediate location and was said to be heard as far away as Ickenham. The Observer spoke to a range of eyewitnesses.
Paul Redmond, 47, had just put his children Aisling, 12, Ciara, 11, and Conor, eight, to bed when his neighbour's house exploded.
He said: "I just heard this big bang which sounded like thunder, then I heard rubble falling and everything ran through my mind - was it a plane crash? Was it a bomb?
"The kids came in screaming and they were lucky to be alive.
"The front door had blown off and there was rubble still falling from next door when we went outside."
Mr Redmond's family sought shelter in a neighbour's house across the road, while he returned to search for his three-year-old dalmation dog Keano.
He said: "There were more than 40 or 50 people searching through the rubble with their bare hands.
"There was a girl pulled out the rubble and she looked badly injured.
"My children were more upset by the absence of the dog and I thought he was dead until we found him in the house the next morning."
Mr Redmond's wife Lisa was at work when the blast occurred and he said many of the occupants of the damaged and destroyed houses were also away at the time.
He said: "If everyone had been at home last night we'd be talking about 10 or 12 fatalities."
The family are now staying in a family room in a local hotel and are unsure if they will ever be able to re-enter their property.
Mr Redmond said: "Ideally I would like to get back in and retrieve my own possessions but the council's structural assessors said it was not possible.
"In the long term I will have to look at moving because we can't stay in the hotel forever and my kids won't want to go back there.
"Neither do I."
ANNE MCGUIGAN, of Stanley Road, was inside her house with her husband Andy and daughter Jemma, 15, when the blast occurred.
She said: "We were shocked. It sounded like an earthquake, the sound just went through you. After the bang all I could hear was this terrible screaming.Then every-body ran outside,we thought it was a bomb.
"Everyone was dialling 999, but it took half an hour for an ambulance to arrive."
Mrs McGuigan said that there was a lot of confusion on the night as residents from surrounding streets ran into Stanley Road to see what was going on.
She said: "I was not impressed with the police,as people were just running around, hundreds of people from around the area just descended on the road.
"We were quite concerned as there are a few elderly people who live at the bottom of the street and we didn't know whether they were being evacuated as well."
Despite the chaos the family were pleased by the efforts of residents to save the life of the 17-year-old girl pulled from the rubble.
Jemma McGuigan said: "It restored my faith as everyone ran towards the rubble and saw the hand and people started to pull her out."
Rather than wait for Harrow Council to find them accommodation the family decided to stay with family in another part of the borough.
Mrs McGuigan was uncertain about the cause of the blast, but felt that the council could be doing more for the area.
She said: "We have four building sites within a mile of this road and I wouldn't be surprised if the explosion was something to do with one of them.
"I feel like we are second-class citizens in the borough. My sister lives in North Harrow and they get treated a lot better there."
NEIGHBOUR AURELIE DERGUESSE, 29, lives across the road from the properties that blew up with her boyfriend Dan Llywelwyn Hall, 27.
She said: "I was downstairs and watching The Apprentice on television when I heard a bang.
"There were lots of projectiles coming in. I thought maybe a car had been blown up or it was kids throwing fireworks.
"We ran into the garden and we saw smoke but no fire, and it was dusty, with lots of debris. I didn't see anyone hurt."
She said Mr Llwelwyn Hall ran to see if he could help anyone and gave his jacket to one of the survivors.
KARI GREENWOOD was walking home to Shaftesbury Parade,South Harrow,when she heard the explosion.
The 16-year-old said: "I was with my sister and as we came round the corner we heard a massive bang.We went to the main road to see what was going on and we couldn't believe it.
"My mum ran out to find us and she told me to go and get my dad, who is a paramedic.Quite a lot of people were trying to help and everyone was picking up the rubble to try and get the girl out.
"The ambulance didn't come for about 30 minutes so people were panicking and telling my dad the wrong advice such as laying her down or putting cold water on her.It was all a bit manic.
"She seemed okay when they pulled her from the rubble but by the time the ambulance came she looked like she was struggling to talk. It was all pretty scary really."
A FATHER whose house was destroyed in the explosion escaped death because he stayed out to watch The Apprentice.
MARK LEAHY, 42, of Stanley Road, returned to find his house completely levelled by the explosion.
Mr Leahy and his two sons had been out at a golf lesson before he dropped them off at his ex-wife's home in Harlesden. He said: "I was supposed to drop them off then come home, but I decided to stay and watch The Apprentice.
"You could say I have got Alan Sugar to thank for being here today.
"I'm in total disbelief, but it's only bricks and mortar and we're flesh and blood. My thoughts are with the family of the man who died and my prayers are for those in hospital."
JAMES MORRIS,whose house in Sherwood Road, South Harrow, backs on to the houses demolished by the explosion at Stanley Road, is staying in a hotel and says that he has received little contact from Harrow Council about when he might be able to go home.
The 27-year-old said: "The French doors that lead into my garden and windows in my front room were completely shattered and to be honest I feel lucky to still be standing. I was pretty much launched off the sofa and if I had been sat anywhere else I would have been critically injured if not worse. It was definitely a close shave."
"I was in the army for four years and I fired rocket launchers and saw tanks being blown up yet I have never heard or seen anything quite like that. I thought it must be a bomb."
"No one really seemed to know what they were doing after that. One police officer told me I should basically decide myself if my house was habitable then later people were telling me it definitely wasn't.
"I had seen three kids in the garden before so my first thought was that there could have been young children caught up in the explosion."
EXPLOSION survivor Charlotte Anderson was dragged from the rubble by a heroic passer-by who spotted her limp hand poking out of the rubble.
Harrow Council gravedigger ANDREW HAYNES, 43, breathlessly scrambled with others to free the 17-year-old.
He had been round the corner in Sherwood Road when he heard the blast and had run to help, becoming one of the first people on the scene.
"It was so dusty, it was hard to see," he said. "I was struggling to breath, my eyes were streaming and I was literally choking.
"But I could hear the girl shouting for help - she was under our feet. I got down on my knees and I found her under the rubble.
She was conscious. I just took hold of her hand as we took the bricks off her. I pulled back a piece of plaster-board and she was there.
"She was bleeding and burned. Her leg was cocked to one side. I said: 'Can you stand?' and she stood up."
Mr Haynes said it took 15 minutes to dig her out and pass her into the hands of the paramedics.
It was only then that he could pause to reflect on the night's events.
"I just acted on impulse. I thought: it could have been my daughter.
"It seems to me it was a miracle the girl could have survived that explosion.