Work continues on damaged dam as police warn residents they must evacuate
Emergency work to prevent a damaged dam from bursting is continuing, as residents refusing to evacuate their homes were criticised for putting lives at risk.
A senior police officer warned there could be “catastrophic” consequences if the dam at Toddbrook Reservoir collapses while people remain within the evacuation zone in the Derbyshire town of Whaley Bridge.
Thirty-one people, including a “small number” who were initially evacuated but have since returned to their homes, remained in 22 properties in the town on Sunday evening.
Deputy chief constable Rachel Swann told a residents meeting those who have defied orders to leave are not only putting their own lives at risk, but also those of emergency services staff who may have to look for them if the dam does break.
She said: “We’ve not evacuated this for no reason.
“We’ve evacuated this because there is real prospect the dam could fail and if it fails it is catastrophic. People would die if they if they were in that evacuation zone.
“So those people who are remain in that zone at putting their lives at risk.
“They are also putting the lives of the responders, primarily the police, at risk because we have to keep going in and speaking to them and asking them to leave.”
In response to a question from a resident who said he had been burgled, the officer said the force was using a drone to patrol the streets.
Water levels at the reservoir have been reduced by more than 3.5 metres and, fortunately for workers at the site, Sunday’s forecast of thunderstorms did not materialise.
The Met Office said there was a risk of some showers overnight into Monday, but these would likely amount to just one or two millimetres of rainfall in the area.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is set to travel to the area on Monday to meet residents and emergency workers, following on from Friday’s visit by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Derbyshire chief fire officer Terry McDermott said specialist engineers have monitored the dam wall 24 hours a day with lasers and are reassured by their assessment.
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.”
He added that a seven-day estimate for how long people would be out of their homes was a “worst case scenario”.
He explained that 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 RAF Chinook drops.
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.
Both Ms Swann and Mr McDermott praised the majority of residents in the area and the community spirit which the fire chief said was “humbling”.
Julie Sharman, chief operating officer for the reservoir’s owners, the Canal and River Trust, also attended the meeting.
She rejected a suggestion from one resident that they had failed to maintain the dam, saying the trust was subject to “the most stringent regulation”.
She added that it was not helpful to speculate about the failure before a full investigation takes place led by the Environment Agency.