Whaley Bridge: Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives to support residents as efforts continue to stop dam bursting

  • PM Boris Johnson has arrived in Whaley Bridge to show support
  • Telegraph’s Lizzie Roberts asks him how much money he’ll pledge
  • More than 1,000 people have been evacuated from the town
  • Community could be levelled if Toddbrook Resevoir barrier bursts
  • Around 400 tonnes of aggregate brought in to divert water
  • RAF helicopters called in to help spread sandbags over dam wall
  • Police say future of dam ‘remains in balance’ and not out of danger

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has touched down in Whaley Bridge to show his support for the emergency operation to save the picturesque market town from severe flooding.

Mr Johnson arrived by helicopter and is due to meet emergency workers and worried residents who have been told that the battle to save the weakened dam is not over yet.

More than 1,000 people have been evacuated after concrete panels on one side of the dam wall on the Toddbrook Reservoir, which holds back 1.3 million metres cubed  of water, partially collapsed following heavy rain.

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Engineers yesterday pumped 200mm of water out of the reservoir and RAF helicopters have been brought in to help repair the front face of the dam. 

Video from the scene shows them dropping sandbags onto the cracked area to try to strengthen the wall.

On Friday morning Derbyshire Police confirmed that a “very small number” of people were refusing to leave their homes.

Residents were taken to the local high school in Chapel-en-le-Frith, which was acting as an evacuation point with tea and biscuits handed out by volunteers.

The majority of evacuees have been able to find accommodation with family and friends but about 40 people had to be put up in a local hotel.

Mr Johnson paid a visit to the school, where he was asked if he was going to pledge any money to help fix the dam.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets rescue crews at Chapel-en-le-Frith High School

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets rescue crews at Chapel-en-le-Frith High School

Credit:
Leon Neal/Getty Images Europe

Late on Thursday the evacuees were moved to Buxton and given rooms in the Palace Hotel, according to former MP Edwina Currie, who lives in the area.

Julie Sharman, chief operating officer of the Canal and River Trust which runs the reservoir, said efforts were ongoing to protect the structure and reduce the amount of water being held back by the dam.

“The operation loading the front face of the dam using the Chinook helicopter is in process and is going to go on for most of the day,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today.

“The primary task at the moment is to load the front face of the dam to secure the structure, in parallel with lowering the water.”

There are concerns the village could be levelled if the dam, which dates to 1838, gives way. 

Residents have believed to have been told there is a 50/50 chance that the dam could burst. 

Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Swann, chairwoman of the Local Resilience Forum, said: “To move the substantial amount of aggregate into place – a Chinook helicopter will be operating in the area in the coming hours to allow precise placement and divert the flow of the water.

“With all that said, at this time the future of the dam wall remains in the balance and I would remind people of the very real danger posed to them should the wall collapse.”

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7:58PM

Police: ‘Lives still at risk’

Assistant Chief Constable Kem Mehmet of Derbyshire Police said there was still “a substantial threat to life” if the dam wall fails.

He said in a press conference today: “We would ask residents to continue to heed police advice and stay away from Whaley Bridge.

“We will be putting plans in place for residents to return to their home to pick up very vital things they need along with their animal welfare.

“This is very controlled, I must stress that, because this is still life at risk.”

7:30PM

Our reporter on the ground Lizzie Roberts asks Mr Johnson if he’s going to pledge any money to repair the dam

7:29PM

Mr Johnson meets rescue crews at Chapel-en-le-Frith High School

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets rescue crews at Chapel-en-le-Frith High School

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets rescue crews at Chapel-en-le-Frith High School

Credit:
Leon Neal/ Getty Images Europe

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets rescue crews at Chapel-en-le-Frith High School

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets rescue crews at Chapel-en-le-Frith High School

Credit:
Leon Neal/Getty Images Europe

7:21PM

Boris Johnson arrives in Whaley Bridge

The Prime Minister arrived by helicopter and is expected to meet worried residents.

He earlier tweeted that his thoughts were with those who had to leave their homes and praised the emergency workers for their efforts.

6:23PM

A resident filmed a helicopter from her back garden this morning

5:10PM

An RAF helicopter drops sandbags into the crack in the dam this afternoon

An RAF helicopter drops sandbags into the crack in the dam this afternoon

An RAF helicopter drops sandbags into the crack in the dam this afternoon

Credit:
Danny Lawson/PA

5:08PM

‘The atmosphere is eerie’

Hanna Sillitoe, 40, went out for a run in Whaley Bridge this morning and noticed the empty and silent streets, following an operation to evacuate thousands of people from the area.

She said: “It feels eerie here, because in every other sense it’s a completely ordinary Friday.

“The weather is beautiful, the sun is shining… and then a great big Chinook flies over the house and the stark reality of what’s happening upstream hits us again.”

2:14PM

‘We had to leave our blind duck behind’ say evacuated couple

Karen and Tony Waterman have lived in Whaley for 14 years. They evacuated with their cat, Blackie and tortoise, Shelby but had to leave their blind duck behind. 

Mrs Waterman said: “We left at 2pm, we hadn’t been asked but when I saw the Dam I went to my son’s in New Mills.

“We had to abandon our car outside Whaley Bridge and walked from there and we saw the Dam it was a shock, I thought it would just but a little crack.

“All I’ve got is what I am wearing, and the pets and some toiletries. We also have a pet duck who is blind that we’ve had to leave. 

“There were a lot of volunteers at the school, people bringing bits and bobs. We arrived there around 9pm.

Anthony and Karen Waterman with their pet tortoise Shelby and cat Blacky 

Anthony and Karen Waterman with their pet tortoise Shelby and cat Blacky 

Credit:
WARREN SMITH

“It’s a bit surreal, I am worried if the house goes. It makes you think of the future, will people want to live there? Will they want to buy houses? Businesses could close. I know one metal business had already flooded out.”

Mr Waterman said: “We’ve been there 14 years, I’ve just been to the bank to put in a claim with the house insurance for accommodation if we need it.

“This morning was the first meal I’ve had since Wednesday. On Wednesday night the River Goyt also flooded, so I’ve been on the go since then.”

Karen said: “It’s a rather worrying situation. I think there were some repairs done to the Dam about two to three years ago, I have had concerns in the past.”

1:48PM

Reservoir will be completely drained, confirm Fire Service 

Paul Hawker, Group Manager for the Fire Service, confirmed that the reservoir, which has a depth of roughly eight metres, will be entirely drained.

He said: “There’s 1.3 million metres cubed in the reservoir, we’re anticipating that more or less all of that will need emptying. So we’re looking at eight metres of water to get rid of.

“Currently, we’re looking at the one metre mark since yesterday, so that will give you a rough estimation of how long we might be here given favourable weather conditions.” 

Mr Hawker said structural engineers wanted the water level “right down” to ensure the risk of the wall being breached is completely minimised. 

Ten High Volume Pumps (HVPs) are currently on the Reservoir road side of Toddbrook Reservoir pumping water back into the river network via the River Goyt. 

Mr Hawker added: “It’s being pumped into the river network and being monitored to make sure we’re not just putting water from one place to another.” 

Water is also being diverted from the reservoir into an “overflow channel” using an extra 30-40 sandbags.  

12:36PM

RAF Chinook has dropped approximately 150 tonnes of aggregate 

The RAF Chinook has already dropped approximately 150 tonnes of aggregate – a mixture of sand, gravel and stone – into Toddbrook and will continue to do so throughout the day. This is intended to stem the flow of water into the reservoir and into other surrounding watercourses designed for this purpose.

Minister for the Armed Forces Mark Lancaster said: “The Armed Forces continues to support local authorities in tackling the flooding we have seen across many parts of the UK.

“The rapid response of the RAF in deploying a Chinook helicopter will provide extra support in Derbyshire and we stand ready to assist in any way required.”

The RAF Chinook helicopter flies in sandbags to help repair the dam

The RAF Chinook helicopter flies in sandbags to help repair the dam

Credit:
PA

Wing Commander Gary Lane, the RAF liaison officer at the scene said: “Once the call from the civilian authorities came, we rapidly deployed an RAF Chinook and support crews to provide this vital support. We will continue to use the skills of our highly trained air and groundcrew and the astonishing lift capability of the Chinook to assist in ensuring the safety of the public.”

The Chinook’s crew were also accompanied by a joint helicopter support squadron deployed from RAF Benson and an RAF Regional Liaison Support Officer. This military support was requested and provided under the “Military Aid To Civil Authorities” (MACA) process.

12:17PM

Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers will chair the Government’s emergency COBR committee

Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers has said that she will chair the Government’s emergency COBR committee to ensure everything is being done to stop the dam from bursting. 

She said said: “This morning I am receiving regular updates from the ground on the situation in Whaley Bridge and the fast action being taken by the police and other agencies.

“Later today I will chair a meeting of the Government’s emergency COBR committee to make sure everything possible is being done to draw down water levels, fix damage to the dam and protect homes and businesses.

“My thoughts are with those who have had to leave their homes and I would like to thank all emergency services, military personnel and all others for their continued hard work.”

12:10PM

Sandbags provided by local DIY company 

Local company, Chapel DIY, have been supplying the large sandbags which have been dropped by the Chinook.

Paul Carrington, owner of Chapel DIY, said: “A couple of guys from derbyshire county council knocked on my door last night asking if we had any empty bags so I gave them some.

“But then they came back later and asked if we could provide more so myself and my son went to the yard and began filling our articulated lorries with them.

“We’ve provided 136 bags in total, ours are the pink ones you can see the Chinook dropping.

“We we’re working until 11.30pm last night filling them, they’ve completely wiped me out but if it helps Whaley I’ll do it.”

He said the council took the bags to Longhill where the Chinook has then been collecting them and flying them to the Dam.

11:36AM

Photos from the scene

Ministry of Defence said the RAF Chinook deployed at 5am and will remain until no longer needed.

Workers go into the night yesterday using a torchlight to inspect damage done to the Toddbrook reservoir

Workers go into the night yesterday using a torchlight to inspect damage done to the Toddbrook reservoir

Credit:
James Speakman/Mercury Press

The Chinook helicopter creates a rainbow in the spray

The Chinook helicopter creates a rainbow in the spray

Credit:
Getty 

The RAF Chinook helicopter flies in sandbags to help repair the dam at Toddbrook reservoir 

The RAF Chinook helicopter flies in sandbags to help repair the dam at Toddbrook reservoir 

Credit:
PA

The RAF Chinook helicopter prepares to drop sandbags 

The RAF Chinook helicopter prepares to drop sandbags 

Credit:
PA

11:02AM

Environment Secretary to chair a COBR meeting later today to coordinate the Government’s response, says PM 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted his support to residents in the Whaley Bridge area. 

He said: “My thoughts are with those who have had to leave their homes and all of those who are affected in Whaley Bridge.

“First responders, engineers and RAF crews are working around the clock to fix the dam.

He said that he had spoken to GOLD Commander and Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Swann to “thank them for their ongoing efforts”.

He added: “I have instructed the Environment Secretary to chair a COBR meeting later today to coordinate the Government’s response.” 

10:57AM

Taxi driver worked for free to check on vulnerable family members, evacuating 13 people 

There was confusion last night as residents from two nursing homes in Whaley Bridge were poised to be evacuated but ended up being sent back.

Residents from Cromford Court and Ecclesford residential homes were being ferried by police and private cars to the Palace Hotel in Buxton, when police realised they were not actually in the danger zone.

Paddy Bann, 56, a taxi driver and member of Chapel-en-le-Frith parish council, took some residents to the hotel before police said they could actually return home. 

“They were moved to Ecclesford and sitting waiting for instructions to go, some had already been moved to The Palace and got to stay there. But then the police came back and said they could be brought back,” Mr Bann said.

Mr Bann, who worked for free until 1.30am taking Whaley Bridge residents to safety, said he received calls from relatives asking him to go and check on their vulnerable family members who were still in the village. 

“The unsung heroes are the volunteers and the ones that offered help, rooms and food. It shows with all the differences we have, we can all get together. Lives are lives and if can help, I’ll help. 

“I am so proud to be part of this community,” he said.

Mr Bann took over 13 people to safety last night, including a young family from Whaley to The Palace.

“There was this young couple that came into the High School, she was really upset, she had a baby and partner. 

“She had to move from her home, she was at a loss and didn’t know where or when she’d get back. 

“Volunteers at the hotel settled her down and the St John’s ambulance,” he said.

10:35AM

Fire Services predict the incident will last up to three days

Fire and Rescue Services from across the UK have said they are continuing to support the major incident in Derbyshire – and are working tirelessly to assist in reducing water levels in the Toddbrook reservoir, while helping to keep the public  safe. 

Yesterday it was thought that more than 6,000 people were to be evacuated but this was downgraded to those “most at risk in terms of flooding” say the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC). 

The police confirmed that just over a thousand people had left their homes with a “very small number” remaining behind. 

Ten High Volume Pumps (HVPs) have been deployed overnight

Ten High Volume Pumps  have been deployed overnight

Credit:
SWNS

Ten High Volume Pumps (HVPs) have been deployed overnight pumping water to assist in reducing water levels. The deployment is part of the NFCC’s National Resilience (NR) response.

The HVPs have been pumping water from the reservoir to other locations to reduce the pressure on the reservoir wall, in an attempt to reduce the impact on the local community.

HVPs have the capacity to move up to 7,000 litres of water per minute currently the 10 pumps which are deployed are pumping in the region of 4.2 million litres of water per hour.

The National Fire Chiefs Council said it is currently anticipated that the incident will run for at least 2 to 3 days.

9:54AM

Police officer: “Out of this area or else you are going to die” 

A police officer helping to evacuate residents near the Toddbrook Reservoir told them “out of this area or else you are going to die, put it like that”. 

The residents in question quickly complied, according to Sky News reporter Tom Parmenter.   

9:47AM

“People rushed to get their dogs” say couple who slept in their campervan 

Tim and Julie Knight from Whaley stayed in their Volkswagen campervan in the Chapel school car park after evacuating from the village.

They said that two other residents who live in Whaley and were in Stockport when they heard the news had rushed back to save their dogs. 

“They rushed back to get their dogs but the police wouldn’t let them in.

“Then eventually they let them in but the police then started shouting ‘quick you’ve got to get out now!’

“They rushed out so quickly they left the keys in the door and had to throw their dogs into the back of the police van.

A young couple are evacuated with their pets in the town of Whaley Bridge

A young couple are evacuated with their pets in the town of Whaley Bridge

Credit:
James Speakman/Mercury Press 

The couple moved out first thing yesterday morning at 10.30am but said: “No one told us to go but we saw the dam was collapsing, so we quickly went. 

“We were concerned the night before because the river is about 30ft behind our house and it was hitting the bridge, so we knew it was problem.

“We went to a place up the hill and after about an hour a lorry started loading sandbags then came back down here to the school.

“We stayed in our campervan because of the dog really. It’s like going camping.”

9:25AM

People refusing to be evacuated says councillor 

Whaley Bridge councillor David Lomax went door-to-door yesterday afternoon advising people to leave their homes.

He said most people were moving out and making arrangements but “one person said he wasn’t going to move”.

“Hopefully people will heed police advice and leave – after all your life is more important than your property,” he told Radio Manchester.

“Roads are closed, shops are closed, so even people who think they are in the safe areas will have a long drive to go anywhere to find food.”

Mr Lomax said it could be a couple of days before people could return to their homes.

9:06AM

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue say 150 firefighters are on scene 

Derbyshire’s Chief Fire Officer, Terry McDermott said there were 150 firefighters at the reservoir, with 10 high-volume pumping crews from around the UK.

He said the priority was reducing the level of the water behind the dam wall.

Speaking in nearby Chapel-en-le-Frith, Mr McDermott said: “It does seem to be starting to reduce now. I think a lot of that is because the amount of water going into the reservoir has slowed down.”

But he said engineers remain “very concerned about it”.

Mr McDermott said: “The structural engineer is saying if we don’t do something there will be a problem. It’s not going to go away on its own. It’s absolutely necessary, the activity that’s going on at the moment.”

8:25AM

Road closures around Whaley Bridge 

Roads going through Whaley Bridge have all been closed with more closures in other areas including New Mills close to the River Goyt:

  • Buxton Road (A5004)
  • Macclesfield Road (B5470)
  • Whaley Lane Reservoir Road
8:09AM

Derbyshire Police: “There is still a risk the dam will fail” 

Officers have been assisted overnight by a wide number of partner agencies including the fire service who have sent firefighters from across the country, the Environment Agency, the ambulance service, local councils and emergency planning staff.

Police said they were also assisted overnight by RAF crews who used a Chinook helicopter to move more than 50 tonnes of aggregate into the reservoir wall to reinforce it.

This work was done in conjunction with expert structural engineers, who have been advising the emergency response since yesterday afternoon.

Throughout the day, work will continue to further shore up the reservoir wall. The Chinook will also be dropping aggregate into other parts of the reservoir, to stem the flow of water going into it.

There are also a total of 16 high volume water pumps which have been installed in the reservoir, in order to reduce the water levels. These have been provided by fire services from across the country and the Canal and River Trust.

An RAF Chinook helicopter flies in sandbags to help repair the dam at Toddbrook reservoir

An RAF Chinook helicopter flies in sandbags to help repair the dam at Toddbrook reservoir

Credit:
PA

Assistant Chief Constable Kem Mehmet, said: “Our message today remains the same — as there is still a risk the dam will fail – please stay away from the area.

“If you are asked to leave, please heed emergency services and expert advice and do so. We understand that being asked to leave your home is an extremely difficult and worrying situation to find yourself in, however it is not a decision we have taken lightly and ultimately the safety of the public is our main concern.

“The evacuation point at Chapel High School, Long Lane, Chapel-en-le-Frith, High Peak, SK23 0TQ, will remain open today and residents will be accommodated if they are unable to make alternative arrangements.

“We have evacuated more than 1,000 people from the areas that would be immediately affected by floodwater should the wall fail.

“The majority have been able to find accommodation with family and friends. About 40 people have also been put up in a local hotel and they will be looked after today.

“We don’t know how long this operation will take to conclude but we and our colleagues in the emergency services, partner agencies, Environment Agency and military are doing everything humanly possible to save the reservoir wall and to protect the town.”

8:01AM

What is the history of the reservoir?

Toddbrook Reservoir is on the north-west edge of the Peak District National Park, sitting above the small town of Whaley Bridge.

It was built in 1831, according to some experts, while the Environment Agency record it as being built between 1840-41.

The structure supplies water to the Peak Forest Canal, a waterway in northern England running between the town and Ashton under Lyne.

Owned by the Canal & River Trust, the reservoir is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to local wildlife.

Reservoir safety is maintained by inspections under an act created in 1930 and strengthened in 1975, according to experts, but flooding and other weather events have led to concerns about safety of older structures.

Toddbrook Reservoir

Toddbrook Reservoir

Credit:
 Danny Lawson/PA

Professor Roderick Smith, from Imperial College London, said: “Extreme weather events mean that there is increasing unease about the safety of older dams: particularly the need to release excess water safely and easily.”

The reservoir was damaged due to flooding in 1964, according to the Environment Agency, but another specialist said it was “unlikely” it had been in an unsafe condition before the heavy rainfall on Thursday.

Professor Tim Broyd, Professor of Built Environment Foresight at University College London, said: “Dams are highly regulated structures, which includes regular structural inspections by highly qualified engineers.

“It is unlikely therefore that the dam was in a previously unsafe condition.

“What may have been the cause, however, is that the flow rate into the reservoir was exceptionally high, as a result of extreme local rainflows.”

7:53AM

Rail passengers urged to check their journey after cancellations

Rail passengers on the Liverpool Lime Street / Nottingham / Norwich line had their journeys disrupted as a result of the dam threatening to collapse.

East Midlands Trains said: “This rail closure of the Hope Valley follows a request by police in relation to the damaged dam at Toddbrook Reservoir, Whaley Bridge.

“We are working closely with other agencies to enable the railway to be re-opened as soon as it is safe to do so.”

7:51AM

The weather forecast for the area is predominantly dry

Forecaster Luke Miall said showers in the area had eased overnight, though there was a possibility of rain later in the day.

He added: “There is still a risk of showers breaking out in the afternoon, but it’s a predominantly dry picture for Friday.”

Sporadic rain was also likely in north west Scotland and south west England.

Workers walk to collect sandbags on the top of the Toddbrook Reservoir

Workers walk to collect sandbags on the top of the Toddbrook Reservoir

Credit:
James Speakman/Mercury Press

7:49AM

Efforts are ongoing to secure the front face of the dam

Julie Sharman, chief operating officer of the Canal and River Trust which runs the reservoir, said efforts were ongoing to protect the structure and reduce the amount of water being held back by the dam.

“The operation loading the front face of the dam using the Chinook helicopter is in process and is going to go on for most of the day here,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today.

“Additional pumping is going in and the good news is that the inflow to the reservoir has reduced considerably.

“We’ve lowered the level of the water in the reservoir by 200mm. We are obviously aiming to get that down considerably more.

“The primary task at the moment is to load the front face of the dam to secure the structure, in parallel with lowering the water.”

Whaley Bridge

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