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Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis sacked the country’s Minister of Public Order in a cabinet reshuffle in response to criticism of the government’s handling of a spate of wildfires over the summer .

Decision to dismiss Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection Michalis Chrysochoidis from office comes after rampant forest fires destroyed more than a quarter of a million hectares of pine forest in August, damaging homes and businesses, threatening Athens and costing two lives.

Chrysochoidis will be replaced by former interior minister Takis Theodorikakos, while the country’s health minister, Vassilis Kikilias, is transferred to the tourism post, replacing Harry Theoharis.

The cabinet reshuffle follows a public apology from the prime minister for the delays and communication breakdowns that hampered the country’s official response to the devastating forest fires, with Mitsotakis begging to make amends to prevent another such disaster.

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Along with the cabinet changes, a spokesperson for the prime minister’s office said a new civil protection ministry would be created, with former defense minister Evangelos Apostolakis heading that department. The new ministry will work alongside a ministry responsible for natural disaster recovery, created by the government in mid-August.

The Greek government reshuffle comes two weeks ahead of a Mitsotakis speech, in which he is expected to unveil his 2022 economic policy, as the country recovers from the impact on the country’s tourism sector from the Covid pandemic and recent fires in Forest.

This summer, more than 500 forest fires broke out across Greece over a series of weeks, with other countries, such as France, Italy and Turkey, similarly affected as scorching temperatures, a dry climate and strong winds fueled their spread in the Mediterranean.

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