HUNDREDS of North Yorkshire residents turned up to an event aimed at helping them shore up their defences against flooding.

Led by North Yorkshire County Council, the "flood fair" saw more than 40 exhibitors displaying products aimed at protecting homes and businesses.

On show were traders selling objects like giant polythene flood bags, absorbent flood cushions - to be used in place of sandbags - and even pre-cooked meals that heat themselves up in the tin.

More expensive alternatives were floodguards, for doors, windows and airbricks, or a portable metal wall to be built around homes when the water starts rising.

But Saturday's event, at the Harrogate Showground attracted a mixed response from flood victims.

Some praised NYCC for giving people the chance to see the various products on the market.

Others, however, were sceptical about whether the products would work - and renewed their call for permanent flood defences to be built as soon as possible.

Veteran flood campaigner Di Keal, of Norton, fell into the second group.

Di was flooded out of her home both in 1999 and 2000, and has been among the leaders of a campaign to have a flood defence system built in Norton and Malton.

She said: "My major concern is that people will come here, think they can buy these things and then be completely safe.

"The time they will be safe is when defences are built in the areas they are needed. Until then, the floodwater will find a way."

The Mayor of Norton, Coun Keith Mennell, said: "These things might buy people an extra bit of piece of mind.

"They'll never be able to relax properly though until their homes are protected by flood defences," he said.

However, the Mayor of Thirsk, Coun Freda Roberts, said: "I feel it has been a useful event. The items on sale do offer a degree of protection, and they are items people can keep and use themselves - instead of waiting for their ration of sandbags."

Barlby couple Keith and Joan Collinworth - who were evacuated from their home last year - said: "We are keeping an open mind about the fair. If there are things here that can help us then so much the better."

Robin Myshrall, NYCC's head of emergency risk management, said he was pleased with the way the event had gone.

He said: "We don't endorse any of these products, but we wanted to give people the opportunity to see them.

"The idea is to promote self-help by the public alongside work that is done by the various agencies."

* There were no flood warnings in place in the region earlier today, according to an Environment Agency spokesman.

Instead, there were two Flood Watches - the lowest level of alert - in place on the River Ouse in the Vale of York, and on the Nidd and Wharfe.

For the latest situation, telephone the Floodline on 0845 9881188.


Updated: 15:33 Monday, October 08, 2001