RESIDENTS evacuated from their homes due to danger posed by a damaged dam will no longer be allowed by police to return to collect essential items.
Some of the 1,500 residents ordered to leave their properties in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire, on Thursday, had been briefly allowed to collect pets, medication and supplies.
But forecasts of heavy rain forced police to reverse that decision yesterday as there was a ‘very real threat’ the 180-year-old dam could collapse.
‘The threat to life remains very high,’ said Derbyshire Police’s Dep Ch Con Rachel Swann.
And she told 400 residents at a meeting in Chapel-en-le-Frith last night that 31 residents who had briefly returned to 22 homes to collect items then refused to leave were ‘putting the lives of officers at risk.’
‘The officers carrying out checks are mothers, fathers, partners and friends. I want them to be able to return to their families at the end of their shifts, not be put in harm’s way,’ she added.
Her order came amid fears of new downpours yesterday with more rain forecast tomorrow.
That led officers to tell residents at 55 properties in the Horwich End area to leave their homes late on Saturday.
Joan Pass, 78, was in tears as she returned from her home to collect medication for her heart condition. ‘It was terrible. I might lose my home,’ she said. Engineers fear water will flow through the Goyt Valley ‘like a bullet from a gun’ if the dam bursts, destroying homes in its wake.
Residents retrieving items were told they would have just 70 seconds to escape if the dam burst and were told to expect to hear ‘three blasts from a horn’ followed by sirens as a warning.
Gavin Tomlinson, deputy chief fire officer of Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, said crews continued to work ‘tirelessly’ to save the dam, and added: ‘This will continue until engineers are confident the risk has been mitigated.’
He said he hoped residents could return home by the end of the week.The town centre remains deserted with restaurants left with food going to waste.
Water levels at the Toddbrook Reservoir have been reduced by more than 4ft since Thursday, the Department for the Environment said.
An RAF Chinook helicopter has dropped more than 400 sandbags on to the dam, and 150 firefighters have pumped away 35 per cent of the water.
Boris Johnson promised that the reservoir would have a ‘major rebuild’ when he visited on Friday.