Warning to stay away from Whaley Bridge as town evacuated in major flood fears

Incident poses 'significant threat to life' says Environment Agency after reservoir wall collapse.

Warnings to stay away from the whole of the Whaley Bridge area are continuing this evening as thousands are evacuated from their homes.

The major alert comes after part of the reservoir wall at Toddbrook Reservoir collapsed following the recent torrential downpours.

Some areas of New Mills and Furness Vale have also been evacuated while work continues to ensure the structural integrity of the reservoir wall.

Earlier police told the town's 6,500 residents to gather at a local school in Chapel, taking pets and medication with them.

Now, the plan to secure the dam wall is 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 the water from the reservoir to relieve pressure on the dam wall.

- Once the above measures reduce the water to a level that is safe, work will begin on the dam wall itself.

Everyone from business owners to grieving families have been affected. Antony McKeown of Jeremy Unsworth Funeral Directors told the Glossop Chronicle how a funeral at Whaley Bridge Methodist Church today had to be relocated at the last minute to Low Leighton Church in New Mills.

Police say residents who have been at work, or who are away from the area, are strongly advised to stay away following advice from the Environment Agency who have indicated that the incident currently poses a significant threat to life.

Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Swann who is chair of the Local Resilience Forum said: “Over the course of the day we have been dealing with an unprecedented incident at the Toddbrook Reservoir in Whaley Bridge.

“As you will be aware, a wall of the reservoir has been badly damaged during recent heavy rain.

“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.

“At the same time as officers began those actions a multi-agency taskforce – involving the Environment Agency, Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service, the Canal River Trust and many others, was working on a plan to address the damage to the dam wall.

“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.

“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.

“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.”

Any resident that is currently outside the cordon is asked to go to Chapel High School, Chapel-en-le-Frith, High Peak, SK23 0TQ, where further direction will be given.

Emergency vehicles are on the scene and families have been bussed from the school to the Palace Hotel in Buxton for the night. 

Anyone who has been affected by the flooding and need help and support can call the Stockport Council helpline on 0161 217 6111.


AAC Kem Mehmet said: “We understand that residents will be concerned about leaving their homes, however, our priority is to ensure people are kept safe and well and are not taking unnecessary risks.

“This is not a decision that has been taken lightly and we appreciate that there is significant impact on their community, however, this is an unprecedented, fast-moving emergency situation.

“An evacuation point has been set up at Chapel High School, Long Lane, Chapel-en-le-Frith, High Peak, SK23 0TQ, and residents will be accomodated if they are unable to make alternative arrangements.

“I would like to reiterate the importance of heeding the advice that officers are giving as this is for everyone’s safety.”

The following roads are closed due to the incident:

Local Derbyshire County and High Peak Borough councillors have praised everyone who has ralled round to offer accomodation, from hotels to nursing homes, as well as those who have brought supplies such as snacks and water to Chapel High School.

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