RAF helicopter brought in amid fears Peak District dam could collapse as thousands are evacuated
An RAF helicopter has been drafted in to help with a huge operation to secure a dam in the Peak District amid fears it could collapse and wipe out a nearby village.
Thousands of residents were evacuated from Whaley Bridge yesterday 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, the Canal River Trust, police, military and many others, is ongoing today to try and secure the damaged dam.
Derbyshire Police said the plan is now to:-
*Use 400 tonnes of aggregate to divert water from entering the reservoir and into other surrounding watercourses designed for this purpose
*Use water pumps to remove water from the reservoir to relieve pressure on the wall
*An RAF Chinook helicopter will be operating from the air to allow precise placement and divert the flow of the water
*Once the above measures reduce the water to a level that is safe – work will then begin on the dam wall itself.
Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Swann, who is chair of the local resilience forum, said: “Following an assessment by structural engineers the decision was taken to stop access to Whaley Bridge and evacuate parts of the village – along with further areas downstream.
“The response to this incident has come from far and wide. Emergency services from across Derbyshire, the region and across the country have provided support already and will continue to do so in the forthcoming hours and days.
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“Ten specialist high-volume pumping fire appliances along with specially-trained fire and rescue flood advisors have been brought into the area from around the UK, utilising fire service national co-ordination arrangements.
“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.
“I understand that being evacuated from your home is a very difficult decision and it is certainly not one that we make lightly.
“The evacuation point at Chapel High School, Long Lane, Chapel-en-le-Frith, High Peak, SK23 0TQ, will remain open through the night and residents will be accommodated if they are unable to make alternative arrangements.
“At this moment we have no time that we can give to residents when they will be able to get back into their homes.
“However, they should rest assured that all the agencies are doing everything humanly possible to bring the incident to a conclusion, however, that timescale is currently unknown.”
In addition the rail line between Sheffield, Manchester Piccadilly and Liverpool Lime Street is blocked and the line could remain closed until Sunday.
Customers are advised not to travel unless absolutely necessary or to find alternative routes.