More storms expected as risk to life near Whaley Bridge dam remains high

Risk to life for residents near a damaged dam remains as emergency services continue efforts to stop its complete collapse.

Whaley Bridge dam, a 180-year-old structure in Derbyshire, was critically damaged this week.

Water levels at the Toddbrook Reservoir in the small town have been reduced by half a metre amid predictions of further stormy weather.

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

There are fears the dam could sustain further damage - or even collapse completely as forecasters warn of floodwater and lightning strikes.

Evacuated residents spent another night away from their homes on Friday, with police warning it could be several days before they are allowed to return.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who arrived by helicopter, promised that the damaged reservoir would have a "major rebuild" as he met locals at nearby Chapel-en-le-Frith High School, which is being used as an evacuation centre.

Describing the damage to the dam as "pretty scary", he said: "The plan is to try and stop the dam breaking, clearly. And so a huge amount of effort is going into that."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets with rescue crews and local residents at Chapel-en-Le-frith High School as work continues at Toddbrook reservoir following a severe structural failure after heavy rain, on August 02, 2019 in Whaley Bridge (Photo by Leon Neal - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
A picture shows bags of aggregate deployed by emergency services to reinforce a damaged section of the spillway of the Toddbrook Reservoir dam above the town of Whaley Bridge (Photo by Roland HARRISON / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROLAND HARRISON/AFP/Getty Images)

An RAF Chinook and around 150 firefighters using high-volume pumps appear to have partly stabilised the reservoir's spillway, with further pumps brought in by officials on Friday.

Mr Johnson said he thought they had to get the level of the water down about eight metres, although there was some discussion with the surrounding officials about whether this was the exact figure.

He added: "I was talking to one of the villagers from Whaley Bridge who said that he remembered something like this happening 50 years ago.

"We've had an exceptional weather event, we must make sure that this dam can cope with it in the future. That will mean a major rebuild, clearly."

Residents evacuated from their homes were allowed to return briefly on Friday evening to pick up any vital items or pets.

One person from each household was allowed to return for a maximum of 15 minutes.

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Derbyshire Police said that any residents who re-entered Whaley Bridge would be doing so at their own risk and that the threat to life remained high.

Around 1,000 people were evacuated from the town but most found their own accommodation with family and friends, according to Derbyshire County Council.

Police have closed railway lines in the Whaley Bridge area over the risk of potential flooding which is set to continue into the weekend.

The reservoir is on the north-west edge of the Peak District National Park and was built in 1831, according to experts, although the Environment Agency records it as being built in 1840-41.

According to a 2011 Environment Agency report on national dam incidents, Toddbrook "has a history of leakage".