Whaley Bridge dam: Residents wait to hear if they can return

Whaley Bridge Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Much of the town lies beneath the reservoir's water level

Hundreds of residents evacuated last week amid fears the damaged Whaley Bridge dam could collapse are hoping to learn they can return to their homes.

People living in about 50 homes in Horwich End, Derbyshire, were told on Tuesday that they could go home.

But most of the 1,500 evacuated residents are waiting for a further inspection to be carried out later.

Crews pumping water from Toddbrook Reservoir have reduced water levels by more than nine metres.

At a public meeting police said a safe water level at the reservoir had been reached and engineers would further assess the damage to the wall before deciding whether to allow more people to return.

Whaley Bridge residents have been told they must wait until experts confirm the site is "absolutely safe" before they can go home, and a decision will not be made until after noon.

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Media captionWhaley Bridge: Aerial shots reveal reservoir drop

Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Swann said she was confident of "good news" to come for residents who are still displaced.

"We have obviously been pumping the water out and it has gone down at a fast speed," she said.

"We will keep draining the water until it is safe to stop."

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The water is being taken out of Toddbrook Reservoir and being pumped into the River Goyt

Returning resident Melissa Broxup said the last few days have been "an absolute nightmare", but said it was "great" to be allowed to go home.

"I can finally get some sleep," she said.

"I'm happy but on the other side I'm gutted for those who can't come back."

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Melissa Broxup said everyone in Whaley Bridge "has been amazing" since the evacuation

Ruth Ashton and her family, who were evacuated from Whaley Bridge on Thursday, are not among the first swathe of residents able to return home, but hope to get the green light.

"We don't know when we're going to go back," she said.

Image copyright BBC Panorama
Image caption Fire crews said they had used miles of pipe work to pump out the water

Fire crews have been using 23 high-volume pumps to remove the reservoir's water since part of its spillway collapsed on Thursday following heavy rainfall.

The Canal and River Trust said the reservoir was at about 17% of its capacity.

Firefighters used miles of pipes to remove water and engineers had built two roads to allow the pumps to be moved closer to the site.

The dam wall has been packed with 530 tonnes of aggregate, which is being cemented into place to reinforce the spillway.

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Media captionA look inside the operation to save the town of Whaley Bridge

Daniel Greenhalgh, from the trust, said the dam would eventually be rebuilt, but told residents it would be "a long-term construction project".

"We are very much in the emergency phase now and we are currently repairing and carrying out construction work," he said.

"It could take 18 months, two years, three years, who knows?"

The Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning for the area for Friday and Saturday.

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