A town is being evacuated because parts of the wall of the nearby reservoir have collapsed in floods.
The Toddbrook Reservoir dam, above Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire, was damaged following heavy rains.
Police have told the town’s 6,500 residents to gather at a local school and they will be evacuated from there.
A severe flood warning, which means there is a threat to life, has been issued for the River Goyt, below the reservoir.
The Canal and River Trust, which manages the dam, has engineers assessing the damage – but pictures shared on social media show the collapsed part of the wall was growing.
The Environment Agency said the levels of the River Goyt could rise “rapidly” because of water from the reservoir and there is a “danger to life”.
Police told residents to gather at Chapel High School in the neighbouring town of Chapel-en-le-Frith and to take pets and medication with them as they “are not sure how long [it] will take”.
They said evacuated residents should try to arrange their own accommodation as space is limited, but some local pubs and community halls have offered to take in evacuees.
Tracey Croasdale, a resident for 23 years, said she has not yet been told to evacuate but has her rabbits and dog ready in case.
She said: “We’re sitting watching the news, it’s very scary. Never in a million years did we think it would burst its banks.”
Simon Perry, who also lives in Whaley Bridge, said some people had been offered temporary accommodation at a school nearby.
Speaking to the BBC from the banks of the reservoir, he said the water levels were “right up to the limit”.
“The rest of the village is a bit like a ghost town, it’s pretty much deserted at the moment.”
He said he has seen water spilling over the dam occasionally before, but added residents had been “fairly sanguine” and he had “not seen any panic”.
Stewart Hughes, who works in Whaley Bridge, said: “It has been quite worrying as there a few staff who live in the local area who have had to go home and obviously get the family and children and take them to a safe place.
“There were a lot of people who live locally and work here were saying there were issues from last night’s really bad weather.”
Former Conservative MP Edwina Currie also lives in the town.
She said: “Evacuation is absolutely necessary. I don’t think they’ve got any choice. People are being advised not to take pictures. We are really very, very worried.”
She added that the dam had been built in 1830 and she hadn’t heard of any problems before.
Elsewhere in Derbyshire the A6 between Buxton and Bakewell was closed and 10 cars in the Scropton were recovered from flood waters.
In Leicestershire, an international Scout and Guide camping event at a farm near Ibstock has ended early due to the “unprecedented” wet conditions.
The week-long camp was due to run until Saturday but about 4,500 people from 23 countries are due to leave the site on Thursday.
Warnings are also in place across parts of northern England but floods were easing on Thursday afternoon.
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