HALF a mile away you would not know anything had happened.

While Hawnby, Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe and parts of Helmsley and Thirsk were devastated by Sunday's flash floods, other parts of North Yorkshire were left untouched. It was a disaster as local as it was intense.

Yet the rescue effort was equal to it. The emergency services responded bravely and decisively to this climatic end to a lazy weekend, aided by the RAF, mountain rescuers and some courageous residents. Amid the torrential rain and powerful floodwaters, there were many acts of heroism.

Even while we survey the disarray, we can be grateful for a crucial slice of fortune. Had the rains arrived a few hours earlier, when the bikers at Duncombe Park were asleep in their tented village, the cost could have been so much higher.

Now we are left with a question: what can we do to prevent a recurrence?

The early answer appears to be worryingly little. This was a very different event from the millennial floods in York and district, where new defences have since been installed. But how can you protect a community from a cloudburst of such power?

With the Boscastle flash flood less than a year old, it seems such weather is becoming less freak, more frequent. Sunday's nightmare gives much food for thought as the G8 leaders prepare to discuss climate change.

Meanwhile, the people affected need practical help now. We urge the insurance companies to offer swift assistance.

Updated: 10:43 Tuesday, June 21, 2005