Whaley Bridge dam: Optimism as town gets back to normal

Road sweeper in Whaley Bridge
Image caption The streets have been cleaned in Whaley Bridge as businesses re-open their doors

More than 1,000 people who were evacuated over fears a Derbyshire dam would collapse are getting back to normal after returning home.

The cordon around Whaley Bridge, at risk of major flooding when the dam was breached, was lifted on Wednesday.

Engineers continue to monitor the Toddbrook Reservoir dam and pumps are operating to keep water levels low.

More than 1,500 people were told to leave on Thursday over fears the dam would fail completely after heavy rain.

Image caption Former MP and Whaley Bridge resident Edwina Currie said the town could benefit in the long-term

A major repair project is expected to get under way after full assessments of the dam wall and surrounding water channels are carried out.

Former MP and Whaley Bridge resident Edwina Currie compared it to "waking up in hospital after a heart attack".

She said: "You carefully test one limb, check they're all working. It's great. It'll take a little while to get back to normal though.

"It's going to be a fillip for us in the long run, I'm quite sure of that."

Rick Roberts, from Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, said most of their teams had now left but commercial pumps remained to keep water levels low.

"This wasn't just a fire service response, it was the fire service, the Army, the police, the private sector and voluntary organisations," he said.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Residents said they were hugely grateful to those who had protected their community

"The thing that made it work and deliver so well, was all those meetings seeing how we could best support each other."

Volunteers, charities and the public agencies have set up an assistance station at Whaley Bridge primary school for any residents wanting help or advice.

Image caption All residents are being given a leaflet containing emergency advice

Charlotte Stonier, who returned to Reservoir Road on Wednesday night, said she was confident about the future.

"Once something like this has happened, it makes it so much more real and the potential is very real," she said.

"But we have however been reassured that a lot of work is going to be invested in the dam and lots of people are coming together to ensure that if this situation was to arise again we would have lots of things in place."

Image copyright facebook
Image caption Businesses in the town said they are reopening as soon as possible.

The Canal & River Trust, which owns the reservoir, had earlier said it anticipated redesigning and rebuilding the dam.

On Wednesday, environment minister Therese Coffey stressed this would take some time.

"This is not going to be a short-term project, it is going to take some time to understand what can happen next," she said.

"As I know how important this reservoir is to people in this community, but also we need to make sure as ever safety is our number one priority."

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