Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis appoints a new minister in charge of recovery from natural disasters in a bid to defuse growing anger over the struggle to curb wildfires that have charred thousands of hectares of forest.

A charred forest area is seen following a wildfire near the village of Pefki on the island of Evia, Greece, August 12, 2021.
A charred forest area is seen following a wildfire near the village of Pefki on the island of Evia, Greece, August 12, 2021. (Reuters)

Fires burning for more than a week that have caused Greece's worst ecological disaster in decades have finally been brought under control, the fire department said, as the government raced to fund reconstruction amid mounting anger.

"As of yesterday, there is no major active front, just scattered pockets," a fire department spokesman told AFP.

Rain and falling temperatures helped the fire-dousing effort, but crews remain on alert for possible flare-ups in hard-to-access ravines on the island of Evia and in the region of Arcadia in the Peloponnese, the spokesman said.

There have been growing calls for the resignation of top public safety officials who as recently as June had insisted that the country was well-prepared.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Friday appointed a new minister in charge of recovery from natural disasters in a bid to defuse the growing anger.

READ MORE: Greece starts to assess damage as Evia fires rage for seventh day

Public anger

The government has come under withering criticism from locals in stricken areas whose income from agricultural products and tourism has been wiped out.

Nearly 254,520 acres have gone up in flames between July 29 and August 13 in Greece according to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).

So far this year fires have burned more than 285,000 acres (116,000 hectares), compared to an average of fewer than 24,710 acres (10,000 hectares) over the previous 12 years, EFFIS said.

"The internal government reshuffle is aimed at strengthening the response to natural disasters and crises and at supporting residents of the fire-affected areas," a senior government official told Reuters.

The new deputy minister, Christos Triantopoulos, will be responsible for aid and recovery from natural disasters, a new post created to compensate businesses and families hard hit by recent blazes.

READ MORE: Mitsotakis apologises as Greece counts costs of fire catastrophe

Multinational force

With strong winds forecast for the weekend, the bulk of a huge multinational force that assisted Greek firefighters this week remains in place, civil protection spokesman Spyros Georgiou said.

"They are helping to monitor the perimeters of burned areas in Evia and Arcadia, which are many kilometres long," he said.

"Many of them are actually requesting to remain."

In Evia, there were more than 400 Moldovans, Poles, Serbs, Slovaks, Romanians and Ukrainians assisting Greek forces. Over 550 Austrians, Czechs, French and Germans were in Arcadia.

Hundreds of homes and many businesses have been destroyed in Evia, Arcadia and the outskirts of Athens in the prolonged fire wave that struck Greece from late July and intensified last week, during the country's worst heatwave in decades.

One civilian has been killed and another died helping prepare fire defences. Two injured firefighters are in hospital.

READ MORE: Multinational firefighter force battles Greece wildfires

Planet in peril

Greece is just one of a number of countries in the Mediterranean region that have been hit by a savage fire season.

Heatwaves have become more likely due to climate change, scientists say. As global temperatures rise over time, heatwaves are predicted to become more frequent and intense, and their impacts more widespread.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday said, "the climate crisis is here ... and it tells us that everything must change," pointing to other devastating fires in Turkey, Italy and Algeria.

He described the infernos in Greece as the country's "greatest ecological disaster in decades".

Mitsotakis pledged hundreds of millions of euros in reconstruction, reforestation and flood prevention works, and a $2 billion (1.7 billion euro) overhaul of the civil protection agency.

Finance Minister Christos Staikouras on Friday said the government would disburse an additional $586 million (500 million euros) this year in the wake of the fire disaster.

READ MORE: Thousands evacuated in Greece as fires continue to rage

Source: TRTWorld and agencies