A WOMAN and a baby were among those who had to be rescued by firefighters as flash floods wreaked havoc in several villages last night.

A freak rainstorm, which lasted for about 30 minutes shortly after 7.30pm hit several communities in North Yorkshire.

Streams burst their banks and roads were impassable in Barton, Gilling West, Melsonby, Hartforth, Scotch Corner, Middleton Tyas and Kirby Hill which border the A66.

Fire crews were sent to the scene and, at one point, were using a boat to get to those who needed rescuing.

Police and officers from North Yorkshire County Council were also involved.

Speaking as the drama unfolded, a spokesman for North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue said: "At Gilling West, we were told there was two feet of water flowing through the village and affecting approximately 30 properties.

"We were also told there were three cars stuck in the water and one is a lady with a young baby.

We have got our boat in use to rescue her and also an elderly lady.

"We have firefighters in waders assisting with rescues and checking that homeowners are safe.

"Approximately 100 sandbags have arrived and our crews have been busy deploying them."

Melsonby was cut off for about two hours.

West Road was waist deep in water and villagers with sledge hammers knocked down a stone wall to allow water to escape, saving four houses on The Green from flooding. Water was already up to the ground-floor windows.

The fire brigade was called to pump out some flooded houses, but had to abandon the operation because there was nowhere to send the water.

Walls on the Barton and Winston roads were bulldozed by the force of the water and fallen trees caused further chaos for drivers. One motorist had to abandon his vehicle on the dual carriageway between Scotch Corner and Skeeby.

Parish councillor Judith Stansfield said she had never experienced anything like it before.

"I live on the green and I was talking to somebody on the phone, looked out of the window and couldn't believe my eyes.

"The stream is a trickle in a little trough across the green, and within ten minutes of it raining that was absolutely full. It just kept on going and now we have a big lake right across the green."

Villagers knocked walls down to alleviate the pressure of the water in an effort to prevent some nearby newly-built houses from being flooded.

"The water then pushed the wall down at the other end of the green and so it's like a white water rapid now," she said Another resident said the village had been entirely cut off.

"We are almost an island now,"

she said.

Soldiers from Catterick Garrison were reported to be on standby should further heavy rain fall during the night.