‘Struggling’ Whaley Bridge families face at least another TWO DAYS away from their homes with crumbling dam still at risk of collapse
- Residents in the Derbyshire town will have to endure two more days of uncertainty surrounding the dam
- All day workers have been pumping water from the ‘unstable’ Toddbrook Reservoir after it avoided storms
- High water levels at Toddbrook Reservoir near the town have been reduced by three metres since Thursday
- Many residents have been cut off from going to work and running their businesses as roads remain closed
Residents in Whaley Bridge are set to be forced to endure two more days of uncertainty as emergency services continue to work to secure the crumbling dam.
Throughout today workers have been pumping water away from the ‘unstable’ reservoir after the area narrowly avoided storms that had been predicted to hit the Derbyshire area.
Sandbags were seen being laid at the Toddbrook Reservoir and it has now been stated that workers have managed to reduce water levels by half.
Workers continued to make progress through last night and today with the reservoir now at 46 per cent of its holding capacity, with the water level down by 5.7metres.
This is while many struggling families still remained cut off from employment with no news as to when they could return to their jobs, with 1,500 residents having been evacuated since Thursday.
Some have since returned to their properties, with senior police officers having warned that there could be ‘catastrophic’ consequences if the dam collapses while people remain within the evacuation zone in the Derbyshire town.
Others took to social media to praise the efforts of the emergency services and the local residents of Whaley Bridge who had gone above and beyond to help others. Famous resident Edwina Currie even urged people to come and visit the area once the incident had been rectified.
The scope of the amount of water that could come through the dam in shown in the picture as a pipe is also shown funneling the water away
Pipes were seen led out across the pathway today with emergency workers seen to be holding pipes in order to transport the water
Huge quantities of water were seen being pumped out of the reservoir today by rescue teams who have been drafted in from up and down the country
Fire crews took some time out today as they had a soft drink following their continuous efforts to secure the dam in Whaley Bridge
Images show holes in the dam and sandbags which have been placed on top and at the side of it be emergency workers
His visit comes as police were urged to patrol the streets of the near-deserted Whaley Bridge by drone yesterday as evacuated locals feared their homes would be broken into.
Labour MP for the High Peak, Ruth George was on the scene today and reassured those around her that the situation would not continue for much longer.
She said: ‘At last night’s meeting we were given an outside time of seven days and to be able to do that in return for the incredible effort our emergency services have put in to saving lives here in Whaley Bridge doesn’t seem like a huge amount to ask people.
‘I really wish for the last couple of days we have to be out they help people by staying out.’
She also highlighted that more help needed to be put in place for those who had been forced out of work for the last few days.
‘I know every day’s wage is important – people who are prevented from working for a whole week, not being able to get that money coming in when you’re running a household is a real problem.
At the moment it doesn’t seem like there’s any structure in there to help people who are cut off from their employment. Situations like that show just how important emergency paid leave is, and we need some funding in place to help people in Whaley Bridge in that situation.
‘1,500 people have been evacuated, they are having extra raised costs of having to live away from home, buy food for themselves. But the biggest cost is going to be businesses – some of them have been cut off from their premises, from their computers, they are struggling at the moment.’
As prominent politicians took to the streets,many took to social media to praise their local heroes. One woman thanks a local pharmacist who had been out and about helping.
‘Special shout out to Raj the local pharmacist from #WhaleyBridge chemists- he has just personally delivered my frail & elderly parents’ weekly medications to their door with a police escort on a Sunday afternoon! Raj if you read this THANKYOU!’
Whaley Bridge resident Edwina Currie urged people to come and visit the area once the incident was over, said: ‘When this emergency is passed, come and spend time with us, with your families dogs grannies whatever. You will be made very welcome.’
She also stated that there wasn’t actually a panic and that most people ‘lived outside the evacuation zone.
As workers continued to curb the dam the Met Office said weather for the Derbyshire area will include light rain and a moderate breeze, once again giving emergency workers the opportunity to continue to tackle the issues.
Despite the moderate forecast the Environment agency is warning that flooding is possible at eight other locations around the country as the UK braces for a week of thunderstorms.
The Environment Agency said that levels in the River Goyt could continue to rise rapidly as a result of water flowing from the reservoir.
A ‘small number’ of 31 people who were initially evacuated have since returned to their homes in the Derbyshire town, during a brief period when police allowed them to do so to collect vital items, but then failed to come back outside the cordon.
Residents of 22 homes, thought to be a mix of those who have gone back to their properties and those who never left following the first evacuations on Thursday, are now refusing to leave despite police warning of a ‘very high’ threat to life. Police today stated that they had no update on how many people still remained in their properties.
This morning workers continued to shore up the Toddbrook Reservoir dam near the village of Whaley Bridge as even more sandbags looked to have been deployed
Sandbags were seen piled up high at the side of the reservoir today as workers carried on through the day to secure the dam
Derbyshire Police said that over the past days the dam wall has been packed with 530 tonnes of aggregate which is now being cemented into place to reinforce the structural integrity of the spillway.
Ms George also highlighted the need for an enquiry in order to establish why the reservoir dam failed the way it did.
‘Only that enquiry will tell us whether there should have been more structural funding put in, whether we should have had more rigorous inspections and whether the whole dam needed a rethink and a rebuild before this happened.
‘Until we get that enquiry we can’t get those answers, but I’m going to make sure we do because I think everybody here in Whaley Bridge and on a national scale where we have other similar dams will want to make sure we can learn those lessons.
‘Until we get that enquiry we don’t know if it was maintenance, a structural issue or severe weather which caused it, it’s really hard to say.
‘What we do know is we’re going to see more and more of these severe weather incidents, so we have to make sure our national infrastructure is resilient enough to be able to cope with it. I don’t think the Canal and River Trust as a charitable trust on its own has the resources to be able to do that without significant input from the Government, and that’s part of what we need to do to prepare for climate change.’
Yesterday soldiers, police and engineers continued their desperate efforts to stop the dam wall giving way, including utilising an RAF Chinook helicopter to drop bags of aggregate on the damaged section of spillway.
In a forceful condemnation of the culprits who returned home, Deputy Chief Constable of Derbyshire Constabulary Rachel Swann, said: ‘These people are putting the lives of officers at risk as further checks have to now be completed to ensure those residents are out of the area safely.
‘The officers carrying out these checks are mothers, fathers, partners and friends.’
She added: ‘I want my officers to be able to return to their families at the end of their shifts – not be put in harm’s way.’
This is while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn today praised ‘incredible spirit’ of the Whaley Bridge community, volunteers, emergency services and public authorities as he saw the ongoing repair work on the damaged dam.
He said: ‘Incredible response by the community, the volunteers and I think really in co-ordination between the Environment Agency, the Canals and Rivers Trust, the county council, local authorities, police, RAF, everybody… really efficient. What you see is this incredible spirit around working so well together.
‘I went out to talk to the construction workers who are repairing the dam. Well you have to just admire the skill of dropping a lot of aggregate in pinpoint accuracy and then backfilling with concrete and further aggregate which they are doing now.
‘Impressive but obviously the water levels have got to go down. That’s happening and hopefully people will be able to return to their homes but of course there has to be then the question of long-term repair to the dam and the safety of it in the future.’
Asked if he thought an inquiry should take place, he replied: ‘Yes there has to be an inquiry. An inquiry to make sure all the co-ordination worked effectively and everything I have seen shows it did but there are always lessons to be learned.
‘I have just spent some time at a residents’ meeting and they had wholly legitimate questions about how to get to work, how to get home, family, pets, medical supplies and things like that but also the loss of earnings from people who can’t get out to work, those that are self-employed and the way in what is known as the Bellwin formula – which supports public authorities in the event of an emergency like this – actually impacts on communities as well.’
The ‘critical condition’ of the dam – with a breach still a ‘very real threat’ – led authorities to clear 55 properties in the Horwich End area, on top of around 1,500 residents who had already been uprooted since Thursday.
Water was seen being pumped today from Toddbrook Reservoir in order to protect those residents and businesses in Whaley Bridge
Despite residents in the town being in the third day of evacuation, RAF Wing Commander John Coles, who has headed up the military operation said he felt ‘they got through the worst of it’.
Today a ‘danger to life’ due to severe flooding was still in place in Whaley Bridge.
Last night a bridge and two new roads were built in the area in order to allow emergency services to respond to the incident.
Six rescue boats have been deployed in the region in case the dam bursts.
Workers from construction firm Kier were praised for working through the night at the weekend to build a road around the reservoir so the massive pumps could be moved from one side to the other.
Around 400 people turned up for a residents’ meeting in Chapel-en-le-Frith yesterday, where Deputy Chief Constable Swann said people would be stopped from returning to their homes to pick up essentials.
She told the meeting that the decision was taken because some residents went in and refused to leave again, branding it ‘really disappointing’ and putting lives at risk.
Speaking at the meeting, Ms Swann urged the 31 people in 22 properties to leave their homes, warning them they could ‘die’ if they remain in the evacuation zone.
She also told the meeting that a seven day estimate for how long residents would be out of their homes was a ‘worst case scenario’.
Emergency services were seen working with the pipes this morning as they continued to help secure the damaged dam
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn visited the site today and was guided bu the incident commander at Whaley Bridge
Today workers were still seen on the site as pipe were continuously pumping water out. Properties nearby could be seen in the distance
She said:‘Sadly a small number of people went back into their residences and refused to leave. By doing so they put their own lives at risk. We’ve not evacuated this for no reason.
‘We’ve evacuated this because there is a real prospect the dam could fail and if it fails it is catastrophic. People would die if they were in that evacuation zone.’
More damage to reservoir could see ‘massive flood’
Further damage to a dam which has seen thousands evacuated from their homes over fears it may collapse could lead to ‘massive flooding’, according to an expert.
A wall of a dam at the Toddbrook Reservoir became damaged following flash floods which caused thousands to be evacuated in nearby Whaley Bridge.
An expert from Brunel University in London said the damaged spillway of the dam – designed to release water – could become ‘fully broken’ within hours. This could lead to ‘massive flooding’ following the heavy rainfall.
Dr Mohammed Heidarzadeh, assistant professor and head of coastal engineering and resilience LAB, said: ‘Due to heavy rainfall in Whaley Bridge area, the spillway is now broken and a big chunk of its concrete structure is damaged.
‘There is a possibility that the spillway could then become fully broken in a few hours. If the spillway is fully gone, the embankment dam will be washed away very rapidly, which could cause a massive flood.’ He added that a similar situation occurred at the Orovill dam in California in February 2017.
However, as long as the core of the reservoir is not damaged, the wall ‘should be okay’, according to another specialist.
‘Within the last few years new valves have been placed in the dam to expedite rapid drawdown in emergencies: presumably, this is happening now,’ said Professor Roderick Smith, from Imperial College London.
The former chief scientific adviser for the Department for Transport said the reservoir previously had ‘issues’ with an inadequate valve system which has seen been replaced.
‘So again, I would urge them in the strongest of terms to leave those properties and tell us that they have done that.’
The ‘critical condition’ of the dam – with a breach still a ‘very real threat’ – led authorities to clear 55 properties in the Horwich End area, on top of around 1,500 residents who had already been uprooted since Thursday.
Derbyshire chief fire officer Terry McDermott told the meeting that specialist engineers have monitored the dam wall 24 hours a day with lasers.
He said: ‘There has been no significant deflection in the dam wall according to the feedback we’ve had so far, which gives us some reassurance.’
Ms Swann said that at 3.30pm the water had gone down by a level of 3.5m and ‘will have gone down a lot more since then’.
Julie Sharman, chief operating officer for the reservoir’s owners, the Canal and River Trust, said the reservoir could not be drained as it would require a ‘full fish rescue’, but she said she was ‘100% confident of public safety’ once the 8m level reduction had been achieved.
The officer said they were at the point of maximum efficiency for pumping, meaning that going any faster could present other structural problems with the dam wall.
Mr McDermott said the sluice channel around the reservoir was ‘coping well’ with both the water being pumped out by 22 pumps and the inflow to the lake which has been blocked off by Chinook drops. He said six rescue boats had been deployed in the region in case the dam bursts.
Deputy Chief Constable Swann said the water level in the reservoir has now been reduced by just over three metres – of its eight metre depth – and pumps are removing it at a rate of around 10cm an hour.
She said once it has been lowered far enough for engineers to see the damage to the wall, a decision will be made on whether residents and businesses can return to the town.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Gavin Tomlinson of Derbyshire Fire and Rescue said crews were working to get ‘ahead of the curve and remove as much water as possible’ in order to ‘minimise the impact of any bad weather that does materialise’.
Residents moved on Thursday told how they grabbed medication and beloved pets when they were allowed to briefly return home on Saturday, having been warned by police they did so at their own risk.
Where Whaley Bridge is in relation to the reservoir and the dam wall which has a hole in it, and the flow of the water
James Thomas Burton, 79, was diagnosed with bladder cancer six years ago.
He has been fitted with a colostomy bag that needs to be changed twice a week – on a Monday and a Thursday – to reduce the risk of infection.
He had been to Goyt Valley Medical Practice in Whaley Bridge on Thursday just before the village was evacuated.
The retired brick moulder is concerned the village will not be open today.
He said: ‘When they diagnosed me with cancer they found four tumours on my bladder and a big tumour on my kidney.
How was Toddbrook Reservoir dam built?: Cross section reveals how structure’s clay and concrete hold back 300m tones of water
The large earth dam has a clay core which is made of the same substance used in canals – with it supposed to stop water from flowing through it.
Surrounding the core there is compact soil, which holds the dam together and increased the dams strength over time as it is further condensed.
On the other side of the dam to the water, there are concrete spillways to channel away excess water as the reservoir overflows.
It works in a similar way to a overflow drain in a bath.
A graphic shows the structure of the Toddbrook dam in Whaley Bridge
The reservoir reached bursting point on Thursday after heavy rainfall caused its water levels to rise and tip over the emergency spillway.
This chipped away at the structure and partly eroded it.
Yet Chairman of the British Dam Society Alan Warren has said the reason for this remains unclear.
He told the BBC: ‘We don’t know whether the concrete was inadequate or whether there was some problem underneath those concrete slabs which means the slabs fell into a void that had been forming underneath.
‘Maybe the joints in the slabs weren’t properly sealed, and water was getting in through the joints.’
Other experts have speculated from pictures of the dam that the over-spilling water had eroded the soil under the concrete, but the clay below it had not been compromised.
‘So they took my kidney out and fitted me with a colostomy bag.
‘I have to get it changed twice a week in case it get infected.
‘I had it changed on the Thursday and I got home just as they had called the evacuation.
‘The doctors phoned me up on Friday and asked if I could go to Chapel-en-le-Frith to get it changed.’
But the road leading to Chapel-en-le-Frith was closed off by the police yesterday- and does not look likely to be opened.
Mr Burton would face a three hour round trip for the ten minute procedure.
He added: ‘I’m what you call in a hole and I can’t get out. I am concerned. If worst comes to the worst I’ll have to ring an ambulance.’
Priscilla Warrington, 51, owns the Post Office in the Horwich End part of the town.
The shop in Buxton Road was evacuated on Thursday when she was told by the police to flee.
She said: ‘It was a case of making sure everything was secure before we left.
‘It’s very much a community shop. It’s the community hub for many residents.
‘I’m worried for the elderly people. For many of them it’s their point of contact.
‘We have things like people’s travelling money that is in the safe.’
Mrs Warrington was allowed back on Saturday for 15 minutes to collect the post.
She also retrieved food in the shop and donated cakes to emergency service workers in the town.
Mrs Warrington said she is concerned about what the future holds for her business, adding: ‘We pulled out all the post and the parcels and we got it collected.
‘But we get a lot of medicines in for people and we do all the banking for the local businesses. We don’t take a salary, while the shop is shut, we aren’t earning any money.
‘We have to sort out paying staff and what we are going to do regarding insurance. It’s going to be a nightmare. I am worried for the regular customers.
‘We have a lot of elderly people’s house nearby and they use us a lot of the time.’
Joan Pass, 78, was in tears after she went back for the first time since the mass evacuation of the town, describing it as ‘terrible’.
She said she thought there had been an explosion when first told to evacuate.
Mrs Pass said: ‘The bells were ringing – I didn’t know what the bells were ringing for. My daughter said get out, get your passport and your medication.
‘I thought it was a bomb.’
Ben Pudsey and Andrew McNair, from Animal Search UK, said they had rescued a cockatiel called Joey from one of the evacuated houses, where he had escaped from his cage and was flying around the living room.
Tracey Coleman said she, her 18-year-old daughter Anna and the rest of the family left on Thursday with their two dogs, a cat, a tortoise and the neighbour’s dog and went to her mother’s house nearby.
Val Fallon, 74, has been staying with her daughter in nearby Macclesfield and returned to her house to collect clothes and shoes.
She has lived in the village for 22 years and owns an antique shop next to her house.
She moved without any clothes in a rush and her beloved Jack Russell had not eaten anything since the move.
Ms Fallon said: ‘I would lose my shop and my house if it bursts. I’d lose everything. There is no point moving anything from the shop, I haven’t got enough time.
‘They get you so panicked, you can’t think of all the things you’d need to take. I just dropped everything and fled when they evacuated the village. It was such a rush.
‘I am living out of my daughter’s rag bag, I didn’t have any clothes with me when I evacuated. I thought it was only going to be an overnight thing, but it is on its third day already and they have no idea how long we might have to stay away for.
‘It’s my dog I feel sorry for. He hasn’t eaten anything, he’s not a happy chap. He’s so out of kilter with all the upheaval and stress.’
James Barrington has gone to stay with his parents in nearby Wilmslow, Cheshire, after being evacuated.
He had returned to his house in Whaley Bridge to get the last of his possessions.
Residents were bringing cups of tea and sandwiches to officers, some of whom were working 20 hour shifts.
One officer said: ‘People’s support has been fantastic. I’ve had homemade sausage sandwiches and cakes brought out to me.
‘People have been brilliant. It really shows the community spirit in this area.
‘Total strangers have offered their spare beds to people who have been evacuated.’
Does this picture of a ‘neglected’ dam prove it was a disaster waiting to happen? Footage shows weeds and a tree growing between the concrete panels of Whaley Bridge three years ago
Footage showing plants growing between the concrete panels of the Toddbrook Reservoir dam spillway three years ago have raised questions over its maintenance since then.
The spillway is designed to deal with any water which comes over the top of the dam and channel it safely away.
One engineering expert voiced concern over possible harm to the structure.
Dr Mohammad Heidarzadeh, an assistant professor at Brunel University, said the vegetation on the 2016 video taken from a drone indicated likely gaps between the panels where water could have swept in, making the damage worse.
‘That could be the whole problem right there,’ he said.
Picture shows plants growing between the concrete panels of the Toddbrook Reservoir dam spillway three years ago
‘The spillway needs to be kept sealed and clear of these kind of weeds and plants.’
However another expert, Professor Tim Broyd, former president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, doubted whether the spillway’s failure matched the area where the weeds were most prevalent.
Asked whether the images suggested good maintenance, he said: ‘I’m not sure why you’d want a small tree on the spillway.’
A spokesperson for the Canal and River Trust (CRT), which maintains the dam, said the reservoir was inspected and maintained by independent engineers.
‘This includes regular detailed ten yearly inspections carried out by an independent panel engineer and CRT supervising engineer.
‘The last one was undertaken in November 2018 and signed off by the independent panel engineer and CRT supervising engineer in April.
‘Understanding historical inspections and maintenance is clearly important and will be part of our ongoing response to this event.’
A Whaley Bridge resident said it’s ‘no surprise’ part of the Toddbrook Reservoir dam collapsed – as a series of images showing the structure in disrepair emerged.
The pictures were taken in the weeks and months before last week’s devastating floods.
Hundreds of plants can be seen growing from the earth and creeping through the concrete spillway, which partially collapsed on Thursday.
The man said the vegetation must have caused structural damage to the dam, contributing to its downfall.
He said: ‘The signs have been there for years. The slats that have collapsed have had plants growing between them for a long time. Now they have collapsed and it’s no great surprise.’
He added: ‘It seems like the dam has just been left to its own devices. You wouldn’t let your gutters get into that state let alone a dam.’
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