Whaley Bridge dam: Imminent return to homes unlikely for evacuated residents

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Evacuated residents of Whaley Bridge are unlikely to be told it is safe to return to their homes on Tuesday as work continues to repair a damaged dam.

More than 1,500 people have been evacuated from the Derbyshire town since Thursday following heavy rain, although a small number refused to leave their properties.

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service has said “work is ongoing” at the dam and “nowhere have we said that the dam is safe” after people were hopeful of a return to their homes.

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In response to a tweet which said “the dam is considered safe”, the fire service said: “Nowhere have we said that the dam is safe now.

“Work is ongoing, and road closures and evacuations are still in place to preserve life.

“We will open roads and let people return home as soon as we can, but we have no way of knowing when this will be.”

At a meeting on Tuesday afternoon, residents are likely to be told there is still work to do to make the dam at Toddbrook Reservoir safe.

Commenting on the current status of the dam, the fire service said: “Derbyshire appliances are still working with partner agencies at Toddbrook Reservoir in Whaley Bridge to secure the dam wall.

“We thank everyone working at the incident and in the surrounding area for their continued support and patience.”

An RAF Chinook was also drafted in on Tuesday to help the previously dropped bags of aggregate settle into place.

The RAF Chinook being used at the dam
An RAF Chinook has been putting bags of aggregate in place (Joe Giddens/PA)

Giving an update on the situation in Whaley Bridge, RAF regional liaison officer for the north west, Wing Commander Gary Lane, said: “At the request of the civil engineers, we had a few bits of subsidence where the bags that we put in over Friday and Saturday have settled… so we’ve been asked to fill those in.

“All it is, is the big slab that we put in, there’s a small concave area that needed a few more bags in, so the engineers asked us to come back in and drop those.

“We’ve done 39 tonnes this morning and we’re seeing how that goes on.

“The work we have done is just finding its feet. When you put a load of aggregate down it needs stamping in, we’ve not been able to flatten that because it has just been dropped.”

Lane said around 100 military personnel in total had been drafted in to help with the dam.

Members of the military helping
The military has been brought in to help (Corporal Mark Larner/British Army/PA)

The Canal and River Trust also released a statement which said it had passed the target water level of eight metres.

In the statement, the trust said: “Pumping continued throughout the night and the reservoir is currently at 25% of its holding capacity with the water level down by 8.4 metres.

“The water has been pumped out at a controlled rate and good progress is being made.

“Throughout the morning an RAF Chinook helicopter will continue to drop one tonne bags filled with aggregate to further stabilise the spillway.”

Work continues to shore up the dam
Work is well under way to secure the dam wall (Joe Giddens/PA)

The statement added: “Again, our thanks go to anyone affected by the current situation for their co-operation and patience and to the many who are supporting the emergency operation.”

Residents will be hoping to find out when they are likely to be allowed back into their homes at a public meeting at a school in Chapel-en-le-Frith at 5pm on Tuesday.

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