Hundreds of residents evacuated from Whaley Bridge amid fears the damaged reservoir could collapse are hoping to learn that they can return to their homes today.
More than 1,500 people have been evacuated from the Derbyshire town since Thursday amid heavy rain, although a small number were allowed back to their homes last night.
Police said crews pumping water from Toddbrook Reservoir had led to levels dropping by 31 feet, but engineers would be assessing the damage to the wall before making a decision on allowing more people to return.
At a meeting in a school in neighbouring Chapel-en-le-Frith last night, the remaining residents were told they had to wait until after noon today before a decision could be made on whether they could go back.
Derbyshire Police previously said those evacuated from the town must wait until experts decide that reservoir’s damaged dam is ‘absolutely safe’.
Despite most people having to wait, representatives of the Environment Agency said the water level had dropped way below the target of around 27 feet, after around 17 per cent of the reservoir’s capacity had been pumped out.
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Melissa Broxup returning to her home in the village of Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire, as some residents have been told they can go home now the water level at Toddbrook Reservoir, where a dam was damaged in heavy rainfall, has dropped by 31 feet
John Lomas gives a thumbs up as he finally gets to return home last night. At a meeting last night, the remaining residents were told they had to wait until after noon today before a decision could be made on whether they could go back
John and Jeff Lomas make their way through their front door last night. Derbyshire Police previously said those evacuated from the town must wait until experts decide that reservoir’s damaged dam is ‘absolutely safe’
An RAF Chinook helicopter is pictured dumping sandbags over the most vulnerable part of the dam in Whaley Bridge today as emergency services warn people living in nearby towns and villages that they will be left with as little as ten minutes to evacuate should the barrier burst
Derbyshire Police Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Swann told a public meeting on Tuesday that people from the Horwich End area could return home.
She said: ‘I have got a meeting at 12pm tomorrow where I am expecting we will have good news. We have obviously been pumping the water out and it has gone down at a fast speed.
‘We will keep draining the water until it is safe to stop. What we need to do is just to check the reservoir is fit for when it rains again and we have got a yellow weather warning.’
The Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning covering much of England, including the Derbyshire town, on Friday and Saturday.
One resident who has returned, John Lomas, said: ‘It’s great to be back home. All the services guys have done an excellent job, I’m very proud of them all.’
Another returning resident, Melissa Broxup, said the last few days had been ‘a nightmare, an absolute nightmare’.
The Chinook continued to drop bags of ballast on Toddbrook Reservoir dam in Derbyshire during heavy rainfall today. The crew were also accompanied by a joint helicopter support squadron deployed from RAF Benson and a liaison officer
Sandbags lining the street outside The Goyt Inn in Whaley Bridge, which was behind the evacuation cordon this afternoon
Some Whaley Bridge residents stayed put after being told to leave. They were, left to right: Lorraine Ellis, Gillian George, Martin George, Kaz stringer, Malcom Venton and Chris George
Residents from Whaley Bridge queuing at a school in Chapel-en-le-Frith, where they will be hoping to find out when they are likely to be allowed back into their homes at a public meeting
Edwina Currie with fellow residents from Whaley Bridge, who were queuing at a school in Chapel-en-le-Frith before today’s meeting
She added: ‘I’ve not been able to go anywhere and Whaley is so quiet. Everyone in Whaley has been amazing. It’s not easy.’
Asked what it was like to be one of the first to be let back in, she said: ‘It’s great. I can finally get some sleep. I just can’t wait to get back in my flat. I’m happy but on the other side I’m gutted for those who can’t come back.’
An RAF Chinook was again drafted in on Tuesday to help the previously dropped bags of aggregate settle into place.
Addressing what would happen once people are given the green light to return home, Ms Swann said all cordons would be lifted and roads would go back to normal.
In the meantime, she insisted that security measures were still in force in the area after reports of burglaries and prowlers.
Ms Swann said: ‘We can assure you that security of the area continues. We are using drones regularly to patrol the area.’
Members of the public at the meeting were also told the dam would eventually have to be rebuilt.
A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: ‘We are very much in the emergency phase now and we are currently repairing and carrying out construction work.
A map showing the towns and villages close to the Whaley Bridge dam along with the evacuation area that was in place this morning
The helicopter had been deploying bags of aggregate a mixture of sand, gravel and stone – into the dam to shore it up
An Chinook crew member looks down over Whaley Bridge from the open rear of the aircraft during today’s recovery operation
The Ministry of Defence released these spectacular images of the Chinook helicopter as it took part in operations today
Chinooks have flown in multiple combat operations for the RAF, including the Iraq War, but can also be called up for civilian duties
The Chinook’s powerful rotor blades kicked up spray from the surface of Todbrook Reservoir as it made its approach to the dam
A soldier holds a field radio as the RAF Chinook MK6A helicopter approaches the Whaley Bridge dam this afternoon
‘It is a long-term construction project, but we will not have started from scratch. It could take 18 months, two years, three years, who knows?’
Ms Swann ended the meeting by acknowledging that residents had become ‘increasingly fed-up’ but thanked them for their co-operation.
Police have been using drone devices to keep an eye on more that 500 empty homes and businesses and deputy constable Swann said: ‘Officers are doing checks on a regular basis. We are monitoring what is going on.’
Venton, 77 and Ellis, 64, told The Guardian that hey could not leave their two border collies, Meg and Amy after they were asked to leave their property on Saturday.
The pair had been visited by rescue teams and Venton said: ‘They said we could be affected and that they would like us to evacuate from the premises. We said we would prefer to stop here.
‘Meg, our dog, has a bad leg after having an operation and we just couldn’t leave her. We gave them all our details and they told us to listen out for a siren.’
This is while Ellis claimed they were not being ‘forced to leave’ and that workers had been ‘very nice’ about the whole situation.
‘They did offer to put the dog in a car for us, but we don’t have to go. They were very nice about it and they weren’t forcing us, so we made the decision to stay put. We have got the car outside and we know what to do.’
The Chinook was deployed from RAF Odiham to assist civil authorities dealing with the emergency situation at Toddbrook Reservoir
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
The bags of aggregate being dropped by the Chinook is intended to stem the flow of water into the reservoir and into other surrounding watercourses designed for this purpose
Workers attempting to block the waters they feared would burst through the Toddbrook Reservoir dam, with nearby towns all falling within reach of any flooding that could occur
Animal search teams in Whaley Bridge are pictured loading up their rescue vehicle as people in Derbyshire face the threat of flooding due to the dam’s vulnerability