Town residents let back into homes below damaged England dam

Police say residents evacuated from a town below a damaged reservoir in England almost a week ago can return to their homes

LONDON -- Residents evacuated from a town below a damaged reservoir in England almost a week ago were told Wednesday they could go home, after emergency crews said a dam was no longer at risk of collapsing.

More than 1,500 people were ordered to leave Whaley Bridge last Thursday after the 180-year-old Toddbrook Reservoir's dam was damaged in heavy rain, threatening to inundate the town.

The evacuation order was lifted after firefighters spent days pumping much of the water from the reservoir, and a Royal Air Force helicopter dropped bags of sand and gravel to plug a hole in the dam's spillway.

"The danger posed by the millions of tons of water, which would have destroyed homes and livelihoods, could not be underestimated," Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Swann of Derbyshire Police said.

Residents of the town 175 miles (280 kilometers) northwest of London were told to leave Thursday with pets and essential medicines, and were unsure when they would be able to return.

Many stayed with friends and family, while some were put up in hotels in nearby towns.

Resident Bernie Sharples said it was "absolutely fantastic" to be going home.

"All the authorities, the police, all who helped get us back here — a big thank you to everybody," she said. "I just can't wait to get back to work tomorrow in the morning."

Engineers now plan to assess what is needed to repair the reservoir and keep people safe.

"Over the coming days and weeks further work will be completed to ascertain the damage caused to the dam wall and what actions are required for the future," Swann said. "We must not forget that the dam is broken."