CHURCHES in North Yorkshire have been signed up to help during a future emergency.

North Yorkshire County Council has invited Church of England and Methodist churches to help prepare a community emergency plan.

The plan covers the area near Thirsk hit by flash flooding in June last year, when a month's rainfall fell in one hour.

Local church members played a vital role in assisting relief and rescue workers in the aftermath of the floods.

Ways in which churches could help during future emergencies were discussed at a meeting at Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe village hall.

The meeting was organised by the Mowbray Deanery and was part-chaired by the Archdeacon of Cleveland, the Venerable Paul Ferguson.

He said: "Churches can be ideal partners for a local authority dealing with an emergency. We have the local contacts and networks, and helping people in need is a key part of our purpose.

"I was impressed and moved by the churches' response to the June 2005 floods and I'm glad the local councils, churches and other voluntary bodies are working together to make sure that each contribution is used to the greatest effect in any future emergency."

The meeting was attended by members of the Methodist Church, volunteer group the WRVS, the Women's Institute and Yorkshire Water.

Members of Thirlby Parish Meeting and the parish councils of Bagby and Balk, Hillside and Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe took part.

Louise Collins and Helen White, from the county council's emergency planning unit, discussed how the local community could help during a disaster.

A second meeting will be held later this month to consider the next steps.

During the floods last summer, church members from Felixkirk with Boltby Parish, together with local Methodist members, identified residents most in need of food and fresh water.

On six occasions, the churches used their network of volunteer parish magazine distributors to deliver vital information leaflets to stricken communities.

Insurers said the cost of the flooding would run into tens of millions, while the bill for repairing roads and bridges topped £5m