Normandy coast threatened: region wants to move residents and businesses 19:01 in Abroad According to calculations, some 111,000 houses in Normandy are in an area that is at risk of being flooded. In other places the soil ‘erods’.

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This church in Varengeville-sur-Mer is getting closer and closer to the abyss.
NOS News
  • Frank Renout

    correspondent France

Rock fragments regularly fall down. A campsite moves due to the risk of flooding. Utah Beach, famous for the Allied landings in World War II, has 7,000 cubic meters of sand dumped every year to keep the D-Day Museum from being flooded.

The coastline of Normandy in France is increasingly confronted with the consequences of climate change. The region has now earmarked 15 million euros to drastically change course. One of the measures: helping people and companies to move. They have to leave the coast, because the dangers there are too great.

“People have to get out of there, they have to move. Nature leaves us no choice,” says Stéphane Costa, a geographer at the University of Caen. “The time for waiting is over.”

According to calculations, some 111,000 houses in Normandy are in areas at risk of flooding. In other places the soil ‘erods’. Rocks are knocked away or break off. This process is accelerated by the rising water level, heavy rainfall and frost.

Move church

The church of Varengeville-sur-Mer was built centuries ago on top of the Norman rocks, 400 meters from the sea. But those rocks are slowly crumbling. The distance to the abyss is now only 80 meters. It has been proposed in the city council to put the entire church on rails and drive it inland, away from the danger.

The Quiberville campsite, located directly on the sea, is closed. The water got too close. The entire campsite is now being moved inland.

In Tilleul, near the tourist attraction of Etretat, huge boulders have fallen three times in one year. “The beach is strewn with stones,” complains mayor Raphaël Lesueur. “And we can’t do anything about it. Climate changes are the cause. Something has to be done about that.”

Coastal municipalities throughout the country are at risk

Danger lurks all along the coastline. Erosion is a normal phenomenon, but climate change is accelerating the process. “The stone rocks on the Normandy coast are shrinking by an average of 20 to 25 centimeters per year and in some places even 40 centimeters or more,” writes the GIEC Normand, a committee of scientists that has been monitoring climate change and the impact on the region since 2019. maps.

Between 1960 and 2010, about thirty square kilometers of land disappeared. That’s about 4200 football fields.

Knowledge institute Cerema

And it’s not just in Normandy.

Last year, the French government identified 126 coastal communities across the country as being at risk from erosion or flooding. Of these, 16 are in Normandy. All those cities and towns must come up with action plans and can declare construction bans. Buildings by the sea are particularly at risk due to the rising sea level.

Figures from the French government show that 20 percent of the country’s coastline is affected by erosion. “Between 1960 and 2010, about thirty square kilometers of land disappeared: that is the same as 4200 football fields,” says Cerema, a government knowledge institute.

Climate plan

Normandy is the second region in France to come up with a serious climate plan, after La Nouvelle-Aquitaine previously did so. That plan covered, among other things, the coastal strip from roughly Bordeaux to Spain.

From now on, the Normandy administration will carefully focus on ‘evacuating’ risk areas along the coast. It won’t be a real migration of people yet. “Our priority is to identify the places where we can move businesses and homes,” regional president Hervé Morin told Le Figaro newspaper.

“In the long term, tens of thousands of Normandy residents will have to move from the coastal areas where they live now,” says scientist Stéphane Costa, who is vice-president of the GIEC Normand. “But few politicians dare to say that out loud.

“The plan that has now been adopted by the region is a start. It can prepare the minds for the coming decades. Because we really need to prepare for what is to come: 1.5 million people across France live in potential flood areas.”

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