EMERGENCY works are under way after a huge hole opened up in a canal bank leading to a section draining away.

The major leak sprung up on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal between Rishton and Church during the early hours of the morning.

The leak was located between New Barn Bridge and Aspen Bridge in Rishton, with the water level dropping considerably in the area.

Shocked walkers took pictures and videos, including one of water flooding through the breached bank and into Hyndburn Brook.

Teams from the Canal and Rivers Trust have been out in the area trying to stabilise the ‘significant’ leak by installing dams and pumping water back into the affected area while organising the repair.

The Barrowford Locks, Blackburn Locks, Johnsons Hillocks and Wigan Flight have been closed to try to conserve water but that section of the canal is impassable for all craft.

Fishery experts have been sent to the site to investigate how and whether the issue has killed any fish or whether they have moved into the Hyndburn Brook.

If needed, a fish rescue mission will be undertaken to help save any struggling fish in the canal.

A spokesperson for the Canal and Rivers Trust said: “Our teams have been working throughout the night to try and stabilise the significant leak. Unfortunately, during the early hours of this morning the canal bank has breached.

"The canal is closed in the area and dams are being installed onsite as the trust organises a method of repair. Specialist contractors MEM fisheries are also currently carrying out a fish rescue.

"There are no reports of injury or flooding to property with water from the canal flowing into adjacent fields and Hyndburn Brook. At this stage we don’t know why this has happened and our engineers are currently on site investigating the cause of the breach."

Former Labour MP for Hyndburn, Graham Jones said: “It was only a few weeks ago I met with Canal and Rivers Trust to raise with them the poor state of the banking at Church.

“As part of the historic restoration of St James’ Church, which is at the side of the canal, we’d like to see the canal bank improved.”

Local resident Maggie Wilton, who has lived in Rishton for 37 years said: “I have never seen anything like it.

“I have lived here for 37 years and I walk this path with my dog most days. It’s just washed away. It’s a mess really.”

People are being asked not to use the network for any unnecessary travel until the repairs have been completed due to low water levels.