Briton tells of escape after landslide sweeps through Australian ski resort

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The parents of a young British woman caught up in the Australian ski resort landslide which is believed to have killed 20 people have told of their relief at hearing that their daughter had escaped with her life.

Deirdre Leitch, 22, who was on a year's working holiday with friend Elaine Paterson, also 22, was asleep in a ski lodge when she heard a deafening sound. The two women fled outside with only a few warm clothes and their passports as the landslide stopped just a few feet short of their chalet in the resort of Thredbo, outside Sydney.

Ms Leitch said: "The scene that met our eyes was absolutely horrific. There were people lying injured in the sub-zero temperatures. Some were screaming and there was a terrible smell of sulphur. We tried to help but there was so little we could do. It is a scene that will live with me forever."

As the rescue operation swung into action, she eventually managed to find a phone to ring her parents, Gordon and Riona, at their home in Inverness.

Mr Leitch, 49, told PA News: "She just said they were safe and well. That was all we wanted to hear - just to hear her voice as we'd been so worried."

Mr Leitch, who runs a fork-life truck sales business, said: "Deirdre and Elaine had a remarkable escape. It was a very close-run thing. Deirdre was a bit emotional when she rung up and it was so hectic out there we could only speak for about five minutes. As far as she knew, there was a sudden noise and then they were engulfed. But they got out just in time."

However, his daughter, who graduated last year from Queen Margaret College in Edinburgh and was working at the resort as a receptionist, has not decided whether to stay on or to return home.