Bojo vows to re-house evacuees if dam bursts as thousands spend second night away – Breaking News 2

BORIS Johnson has vowed to re-house families evacuated amid fears a damaged reservoir dam could collapse and flood the town of Whaley Bridge. Thousands of residents have spent a second night away from their homes as police warn the dam is still at a “critical level” and there is a “substantial threat to life” should the dam wall collapse. The PM met with families and emergency teams at a school in nearby Chapel-en-le-Frith. Asked by one if he was taking steps so “this never happens again” Mr Johnson told them: “We are. Quite right.” He told those inside the meeting he had flown over the dam twice and it was “dodgy but stable”. Mr Johnson said: “I flew over the dam and it looks pretty scary. I can see the problem.” He assured residents they “will all be properly housed” if the dam burst. It comes as cops said the wall holding back the 300-million-gallon Toddbrook Reservoir could still fail despite about 24 hours of efforts to shore it up. Part of the dam wall collapsed on Thursday afternoon. Hundreds of residents in the most at risk area of the Peak District town were told last night they would face arrest if they did not leave their homes as fears grow over the flooding threat. If the dam is about to fall, police said all the emergency service vehicles will sound their horns three times as a warning and residents would have to get to higher ground. Julie Sharman, chief operating officer of the Canal and River Trust which runs the reservoir, said: “It is a critical situation at this point in time. “And until we’re beyond that critical situation, the risk is a material risk and that’s why we’ve taken the action we have.” An RAF Chinook and firefighters using high-volume pumps appear to have partly stabilised the “unprecedented, fast-moving, emergency situation” caused by heavy rain. The Chinook has been dropping one-ton sandbags onto the damaged area to bolster the structure. Wing Commander Gary Lane told The Sun: “It’s like building a wall out of Lego. These guys can drop the aggregate within centimetres of where they want it. “The skill and focus is remarkable and comes after years of training.” Improving weather and work on the inflows means the amount of water entering the reservoir has also reduced. Derbyshire Chief Fire Officer Terry McDermott said there are 150 firefighters working at the reservoir with 10 high-volume pumping crews. Water levels had reduced by around eight inches overnight. But he said despite progress, engineers remain “very concerned” about the situation. The 10 pumps are currently being used to get around 4.2 million litres of water an hour out of the reservoir, the National Fire Chiefs Council said. They are expected to continue shifting water for around two to three days, it added. Police have also closed railway lines in the Whaley Bridge area over the risk of potential flooding. A spokesman for Derbyshire Police said: “The structural integrity of the dam wall is still at a critical level and there is still a substantial threat to life should the dam wall fail. “We would ask for residents to continue to heed police advice and stay away from Whaley Bridge.” Residents without anywhere to stay have been told to gather at Chapel High School in the neighbouring town of Chapel-en-le-Frith. Evacuees were told to take pets and medication with them in case they are not able to return for several days. PM Mr Johnson said “first responders, engineers and RAF crews are working around the clock to fix the dam” and he has ordered Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers to chair a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee to discuss the situation. Around 1,000 people were evacuated from the town but most found their own accommodation with family and friends, according to Derbyshire County Council. Cops said a timescale for the evacuees to return home is “currently unknown”. Carolyn Whittle, who lives in Meadowfield on the hillside in Whaley Bridge, said: “I’ve lived in Whaley for the best part of 45 years and I’ve never seen water flood over the dam like that, ever, nor thought that we could possibly be at risk in this way.” Rob Wilson, 44, lives just 880 years away from the dam, with wife Sally, 45, and their three children, aged 9, 13, 15. Mr Wilson, an artist, has a studio near Marple Railway Station but was forced to shut it today. He told The Sun Online: “We volunteered to help out yesterday but the situation changed so quickly that the police suggested that it was probably not safe. “We have got friends who live in a house by the dam – they stayed with us last night after being evacuated. “We didn’t get much sleep last night – the helicopters were really loud, and it was worrying thing to wake up to this morning.” He added: “It is quite alarming – seeing the water rushing down when we were stood on the bridge – we were thinking, what could possibly happen? “We feel very lucky about where we are – we are so far up the hill – but we feel so sorry for our good friends. We have been handing out clothes to one family. But it affects the whole town, the businesses – the devastating effect, if anything bad is to happen, it will affect all of us.”

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