Whaley Bridge dam collapse: Thousands told to evacuate homes after huge hole appears in Derbyshire reservoir wall

‘The overflow this morning has undermining damage and there is a big risk of the village being flooded out,’ says resident Anna Aspinall

Henry Austin
Thursday 01 August 2019 23:52
Whaley Bridge: Derbyshire town evacuated as Toddbrook Reservoir dam wall collapses

Thousands of people were evacuated from a Derbyshire town after part of a reservoir’s wall collapsed when it was battered by heavy rain.

When a huge hole appeared in Toddbrook Reservoir’s dam, residents of Whaley Bridge were told by Derbyshire Police to head to a local school amid fears that it could collapse.

The decision to evacuate was taken because it was “an unprecedented, fast-moving, emergency situation”, a spokesperson for the force said.

Their priority was to try and keep people safe and not to take unnecessary risks, they added, as people were warned to make alternative arrangements for accommodation, pets and medication.

The evacuations came as the Environment Agency issued a severe flood warning, suggesting a danger to life, covering the River Goyt at Whaley Bridge. It stated that the river could “rise rapidly” due to water rushing in from the reservoir.

One Whaley Bridge resident, Anna Aspinall, said she and others wanted to help by placing sand bags in the area around the dam but were sent away after structural engineers advised “that the wall is at high risk of failing”.

“We have had significant rainfall over the past few days resulting in the overflow of the reservoir, which is very rarely breached, being completely flooded over,” the 36-year-old said.

“The result is that the overflow this morning has undermining damage and there is a big risk of the village being flooded out. Residents are currently being evacuated along with businesses.

“We are praying [the dam wall] holds whilst the Canal and River Trust try to drain the water from the reservoir. I live at the top of a hill but am very involved in community life so want to help where I can.”

As police evacuated residents, teams of council workers and mountain rescue vehicles could be seen heading into the village. Squads of police officers along with dozens of Land Rovers and vans also attended the scene.

Two miles up the road, Chapel-en-le-Frith High School was hastily converted into a reception centre for hundreds of residents from and a command centre for the police operation.

Locals with suitcases also headed for a sports centre hall where they planned to spend the night if friends or family could not house them.

Severe flooding in South Yorkshire in 2007 sparked the evacuation of roughly 700 people around Ulley Reservoir, near Rotherham, over fears its walls could burst due to unprecedented rain and apparent “areas of weakness”.

Flooding due to sustained rain also disrupted all lines on the railway between Manchester airport and Wilmslow, according to train operator Northern.

The Environment Agency said its teams were out in Cheshire, Derbyshire and Greater Manchester, where intense rainfall had caused flooding and disruption on Thursday.

It urged people to stay away from swollen rivers and to avoid driving through flood water, after it issued a series of flood warnings covering central, northwest and northeast England.

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The Met Office said it should be a “much drier picture” across England on Thursday.

Forecaster Luke Miall said only sporadic rain was likely in central and western Scotland and northern England, possibly as far south as Yorkshire.

He said: “There may be some showers but they’re likely to not be as frequent nor as significant as the last few days.”

Press Association contributed to this report

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