Members of the public have hindered 24-hour efforts to keep a North Yorkshire community safe from floods by interfering with pumping operations.

They have also moved cones and ignored road closure signs keeping the public out of danger.

The River Derwent reached its highest ever level of five metres and five centimetres at Malton on Friday. Pumps and a multi-agency team have been working day and night to keep Malton, Norton and Old Malton safe.

Keane Duncan, Ryedale District Council leader, said: "We’ve had reports that members of the public moved water pump piping, and also moved cones on County Bridge which is closed for safety reasons. Fortunately it doesn’t appear to have had any serious consequences, but it could have been a different story.

“Response crews are working incredibly hard on the ground right now, and having to revisit sites to check the positioning of pipes, or put road closure cones back in place, just adds to the pressure.

“The last few days have been difficult and disruptive for many people, but on behalf of all the response agencies working in the area right now, and all the people whose homes depend on the flood management plan, I am urging all members of the public to keep helping us at this challenging time.

“Pipes, pumps and road closures are there to keep people safe and protect homes and businesses. Please leave them in place.”

The Derwent had dropped to four metres 36 cm or 14 feet three inches by mid-afternoon at Malton.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “Water levels of the River Derwent are slowly reducing, but ground water levels will remain high for some time, so the pumping operation will remain in place for as long as required.

“A huge thank you goes out to the local community who have been really supportive. However it’s incredibly important that people continue to adhere to road closures and steer clear of the pumps and pipes so that we can continue to reduce local flood risk.”