Whaley Bridge dam: Local who chose to stay describes ‘eerie’ evacuated town

A nearby resident who ignored calls for evacuation near Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire has described the atmosphere in the area as “eerie”.

Hanna Sillitoe filmed the village, evacuated due to a nearby dam at risk of bursting, while out running early on Friday morning – sharing a video to Twitter which shows its streets empty and silent.

“It feels eerie here, because in every other sense it’s a completely ordinary Friday,” the 40-year-old told PA.

“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.”

The author said she heard the RAF Chinook sent to help emergency efforts in stabilising the dam at Toddbrook Reservoir with sandbags flying overhead at 5am – later running along the canal, her usual jogging route, to investigate.

Summer weather August 2nd 2019
A Chinook reinforces the dam on Friday (Danny Lawson/PA)

Despite expecting cordons, she said there were none and she did not have to turn back, continuing on to Whaley Bridge.

Ms Sillitoe said she and other residents of her hamlet, one kilometre away but downstream from the village, were given “conflicting advice”, with police advising evacuation but Government flood warning information suggesting they were safe.

“We have livestock and horses here,” she said. “Our personal decision at present is to stay.

“If the dam goes, my cottage is in the firing line down river – we already had bad floods on Wednesday but the water has since subsided.

“What will be will be.”

Ms Sillitoe's garden during and after Wednesday's flooding
Ms Sillitoe’s garden during and after Wednesday’s flooding (Hanna Sillitoe)

Ms Sillitoe added her “thoughts are with those directly under the dam”.

Brian Stanway, whose fireplace and woodburner business is in the middle of Whaley Bridge, said he has “no time frame whatsoever” about when he will be able to return to open the business.

“We just hope that everyone’s safe, that’s the main thing, and that people have their homes to go back to,” he said.

“It’s a lovely town with a great local community and local spirit.”

Asked whether he ever had fears about the dam, Mr Stanway said: “It’s always been on my mind a little bit because of the repairs that were done about 30 years ago.

“It has crossed my mind. But it looks so solid.”

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