More people evacuated from homes amid fears Peak District dam could collapse in storm

Hundreds more residents have been evacuated from their homes in the Peak District amid fears a forecast storm could cause a damaged dam to burst.

By Lee Peace
Monday, 05 August, 2019, 12:17

Thousands of residents were evacuated from the Whaley Bridge area on Thursday after the dam wall at Toddbrook Reservoir became cracked and started to fall away following torrential rainfall.

A major operation involving a multi-agency taskforce consisting of the Environment Agency, Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, South Yorkshrie Fire and Rescue, the Canal River Trust, police, military and many others, has been ongoing in recent days to try and secure the damaged dam.

Sand bags at the dam.

Derbyshire Police said people were evacuated from a further 55 homes in Horwich End on Saturday due to ‘a potential increase in risk of adverse weather in the coming days and the ongoing risk of the Toddbrook Reservoir breaching.’

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue has assisted the taskforce by providing a high volume pump from Aston Park Fire Station in Sheffield, plus a hose layer from Tankersley. The brigade has also sent an operational support office.

Emergency services and the military have managed to lower the water levels at the reservoir by 1.3m since Thursday.

However, forecasters have said as much as 1.6ins of of rain could fall in just two hours later today.

Derbyshire's deputy chief fire officer, Gavin Tomlinson, said crews were working to get "ahead of the curve" and "minimise the impact of any bad weather that does materialise."

The Canal and River Trust estimated the reservoir was at 83 per cent of its capacity by Saturday afternoon after 23 million gallons of water was pumped out in 12 hours.

An RAF Chinook helicopter put 400 tonnes of sandbags on the affected part of the dam on Friday - adding a further 70 on Saturday.

Daniel Greenhalgh, from the trust, which owns the reservoir and dam, warned: "We are not out of the woods yet.

"The last estimate was that residents could be out of their homes for seven days yet."

On Saturday residents were allowed to return to their homes ‘at their own risk’ for 15 minutes to pick up pets and essentials.

However, with the threat of further adverse weather, the taskforce has now stopped this and nobody is allowed back to the small town for the time being.

Police, the Environment Agency, and the Canal and River Trust have all said there is a "real risk" the 188-year-old dam could collapse and flood the town.

The Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning for much of northern England and the Midlands, including the area around the reservoir.

The Canal and River Trust has defended the maintenance and safety of the structure, which was built in 1831.

Mr Greenhalgh said: "This dam was inspected regularly, by us and an independent engineer.

"It needs to be remembered there was a huge amount of rain in a short time and this flooded the area."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited on Friday and promised a "major rebuild" of the dam.

The train line between Sheffield and Manchester is expected to remain closed until at least Tuesday morning as the efforts continue.