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Vic: Bushfire devastation rivals combat scenes: major general

13 Feb 2009 2:41 PM

MELBOURNE, Feb 13 AAP - Victoria's bushfire devastation ranks alongside some of the worst combat scenes witnessed by a top Australian military official.

Major General John Cantwell, the interim head of the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority, has toured the hardest hit towns of Kinglake and Marysville with Premier John Brumby.

"I am a soldier and I have been in some pretty unpleasant situations, and I have seen some pretty awful things in the last 24 hours that ranks alongside some of the worst I have seen in combat," he said.

"It really brings home the extent of the damage and the work that needs to be done."

Major General Cantwell, who heads the authority until Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon takes charge next month, said its role would be to help communities rebuild.

Of immediate concern were issues including sanitation, meal preparation, laundry, water and showers, he said.

Major General Cantwell is a military veteran of more than 30 years and was posted with coalition forces during Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait between 1990 and 1991.