FLOOD defence managers have told how York's Foss barrier and pumping station was overwhelmed at teatime on Boxing Day - just 48 hours after they had thought Yorkshire would avoid serious flooding.

Environment Agency chiefs said that with the River Foss rising by one foot every 15 minutes, there was a sudden ingress of floodwater into the pumping station at 6.30pm on Boxing Day.

They said the agency was still investigating how the floodwaters got in to the station but a decision was swiftly taken to raise the barrier to avoid it acting as a dam.

Neil Longden, area flood and coastal risk manager, said 600 properties were flooded but 1,000 properties were saved from being flooded as a result of the decision.

Officers said that on Christmas Eve they had thought from weather forecasts that Yorkshire would escape serious flooding with Cumbria taking the brunt of Storm Eva but the latest estimate was that 7,500 properties were flooded across the region.

They said the ground in Yorkshire was saturated after the third wettest November on record and December turned out to be the wettest ever recorded.

The officials were giving a detailed verbal presentation to members of the Yorkshire Regional Flood and Coastal Committee at a meeting in Leeds.

Cllr Andrew Waller, City of York Council's representative on the committee, said 350 homes and 157 businesses were believed to have been flooded in York and 250 people evacuated from their homes.

He said hundreds of homes in the Leeman Road area had all been protected through flood defences, which had been upgraded to cope with climate change in a £4.4 million scheme -to which the council had contributed £1 million.

He spoke of the problems caused by people avoiding coming into York after the floods, stressing:"York is open for business."

Ryedale councillor Di Keal said that despite "fantastic" flood defences on the River Derwent in Norton and Malton, built at a cost of £10.3 million in 2001, Norton was still threatened by a "lake of sewage" on Boxing Day.

She said that because overflow water from sewers could not be discharged into the River Derwent, raw sewage backed up into streets and gardens and threatened homes and businesses.

She said a pumping station needed to be strengthened or a new one built to take water away.

North Yorkshire County Councillor David Jeffels said countless small communities had suffered distressing flooding problems without being under the media spotlight.

He said the challenge was being met head on, for example through the Slowing the Flow" initiative at Pickering, aimed at reducing flooding in the town by slowing flood run-off from the North York Moors, which had captured the attention of a national and international audience.

A small working group from the committee will now examine potential solutions to the problems exposed over Christmas, with a focus on how to increase flooding awareness, increase resilience and reduce the risk.