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Whaley Bridge residents unlikely to return home as dam needs to be made safe

Work continues to shore up the dam at Toddbrook Reservoir. Credit: PA

Residents evacuated from 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 town since Thursday following heavy rain, although a small number refused to leave their homes despite fears of the damaged dam bursting.

However 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.

The fire service said: “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.”

Pipes drain water from the Toddbrook Reservoir near the village of Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire. Credit: PA

The water level at Toddbrook Reservoir in Derbyshire is now down by 8.4 metres and "significant process has been made", but there is still work to do to make the dam safe.

A public meeting will take place at 5pm, but residents are expected to be told they will not be able to return to their homes yet.

The fire service said: “Derbyshire appliances are still working with partner agencies at Toddbrook Reservoir in Whaley Bridge to secure the dam wall."

Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Swann said: “The work that has gone into lowering the water level is outstanding from emergency services and partner agencies. Everyone has been working around the clock to make this happen.

“It is crucial that the inspections are now made by experts to ensure that the dam wall is safe prior to residents returning to their homes.

“I appreciate that this has been a traumatic time for the people evacuated and everyone is working around the clock to ensure that they can return to their homes and businesses as soon as is safe to do so.

“Our main concern remains the safety of the public in Whaley Bridge and those people will only be allowed to return to the town when it is deemed absolutely safe and they are no longer at risk."

Some 20 residents remained in 16 properties in the evacuation zone on Monday evening after warnings they were "taking their lives into their own hands" and jeopardising the safety of the emergency services.

Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Swann said: "We will repeatedly visit these people to remind them of the risks they are posing to themselves and emergency responders, however there is no specific legislation under which we can force these people to leave."

Fire chiefs have said specialist engineers have monitored the dam wall 24 hours a day with lasers and are reassured by their assessment, with a seven-day estimate for how long people would be out of their homes a "worst-case scenario".

The dam wall has been packed with 530 tonnes of aggregate, which is being cemented into place to reinforce the spillway.

Pipes drain water from the Toddbrook Reservoir near the village of Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire. Credit: PA

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

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.”

Work is being carried out to drain the Toddbrook Reservoir. Credit: PA

Derbyshire’s police and crime commissioner, Hardyal Dhindsa, told residents he recognised the "disruption" but added the priority was still a "threat to life".

"We don’t want anyone to be devastated. We want to make sure we protect the properties of everybody. That is going to be difficult when there is an evacuation," he said.

"There is a minority number of people not wanting to leave their properties and they are taking their lives into their own hands," he added.