France knocks down a building by the sea symbol of coastal erosion

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French authorities on Friday began demolishing a seaside building that has become a symbol of the country’s fight against coastal erosion linked to climate change.

When the four-story building was built behind the beach in south-west Gironde in 1967, it stood 200 meters (220 yards) from the shore.

But its approximately 75 apartments in the town of Soulac-sur-Mer had to be evacuated in 2014 after the sea crept within 20 meters of the structure.

Local authorities scrambled to rid the building of asbestos over the next few years, before a huge mechanical digger slammed into its facade on Friday, as several former residents looked on.

“It is the memories of four generations” that are destroyed, said Vincent Duprat, 76, one of the owners of the house.

The sea “has taken back what is rightfully its”.

French Environment Minister Christophe Bechu (right) stands on a caterpillar as he watches the start of demolition of the Signal building. © Philippe Lopez, AFP

Environment Minister Christophe Bechu said the demolition was a sign of “what rising waters and coastal erosion have in store for many other areas along the French coastline”.

By 2100, 20% of the coastline and up to 50,000 homes would be affected, he said.

Erosion is a natural phenomenon that has helped shape our continents over millennia.

But scientists say it is being accelerated by global warming, exacerbated by rising sea levels caused by melting ice caps and glaciers, and by the more powerful waves that warmer oceans contain.

The sandy beaches of the Bay of Biscay between France and Spain are expected to recede by 50 meters by 2050, indicates the Observatoire du Littoral Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

But climate change and sea level rise could increase it by another 20 meters in some areas, said Nicolas Bernon of the Observatory.

In 2020, after a seven-year legal battle, a court ruled that French authorities should compensate the families who had been forced to evacuate the building in Soulac-sur-Mer up to 70% of the original value. of their homes.



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