An RAF Chinook is being drafted into a Derbyshire town in efforts to stop a reservoir collapsing after it was “badly” damaged during heavy rain.

Thousands of Whaley Bridge residents have been evacuated from their homes due to “an unprecedented, fast-moving, emergency situation” caused by heavy downpours.

Toddbrook Reservoir – which contains around 1.3 million tonnes of water – has seen “extensive” damage during the flooding on Thursday.

Pictures from the scene appear to show a huge hole in the dam wall.

Experts say it could be “at least 24 hours” until they can rule out the dam collapsing.

Toddbrook Reservoir – which contains around 1.3 million tonnes of water – has seen “extensive” damage during the flooding on Thursday (REUTERS)

Derbyshire Police said 400 tonnes of aggregate will be brought in overnight to divert water from entering the reservoir, with a Chinook helicopter aiding a multi-agency taskforce.

Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Swann, chairwoman of the Local Resilience Forum, said: “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.”

Firefighters deployed from across the country are using at least 10 high volume pumps to reduce water to a safe level before work will begin to repair the dam wall.

More than 6,000 people are in the process of being told to leave their homes and directed to an evacuation point at a school in Chapel-en-le-Frith.

More than 6,000 people are in the process of being told to leave their homes (REUTERS)

Police added that a timescale for people to be able to return to their homes is “currently unknown”.

Richard Parry, chief executive of the Canal and River Trust, which runs the reservoir, said it could be another 24 hours until they can rule out the dam collapsing.

“We clearly don’t know the nature of the failure, we’ve not had the opportunity to examine it, but we’re operating in a very precautionary way with the other agencies,” he told BBC Newsnight.

“Our first priority is to draw down the water and it’s very important that we do keep everyone out of the area until that is done.

“It will be at least 24 hours, it could be longer, it really depends on how much progress we can make overnight and into tomorrow morning.”

People create a human chain to lay sandbags on Toddbrook Reservoir (PA)

He added that the last annual inspection of the structure by a senior engineer was last November.

The Environment Agency issued a “danger to life” warning covering the River Goyt, as the river could “rise rapidly” due to water rushing in from the reservoir.

A small number of properties in the areas of Furness Vale and New Mills, outside Whaley Bridge but inside the flood risk area, were also evacuated on Thursday evening.

A local resident said that another section of the spillway – designed to release water – further collapsed on Thursday evening.

Carolyn Whittle, who lives in Meadowfield, on the hillside in Whaley Bridge, said: “Another section of the concrete on the dam face has now collapsed.”

Experts and rescue services have been drafted in amid fears the dam will collapse (PA)

The 45-year-old, who works for GM Moving, said: “I’ve lived in Whaley (Bridge) 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.”

The Met Office said showers should “ease off” into Thursday evening – with the yellow warning of rain due to be lifted at 8pm – ahead of much drier conditions on Friday.

Forecaster Craig Snell said only sporadic rain was likely in north west Scotland and south west England which “thankfully don’t look as bad as today (Thursday)”.

He said: “In those two areas the showers won’t be anywhere near as heavy, with sunny spells and sunny showers, and up to 25 degrees in the South West.

“Once we get through the next few hours the showers will ease off.”

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