From 200m away to just 12m, sea threatens to swallow French apartment block
Owners of a block of holiday flats in south-western France that is in imminent danger of falling into the sea are locked in a legal battle with the government over compensation.
The Signal building in Soulac-sur-Mer, 50 miles north of Bordeaux, stood 200 metres from the sea when it was built in the late 1960s.
After decades of coastal erosion, it is now only 12 metres from the water's edge. If there is a repeat of last winter's violent storms, which swallowed up to 30 metres of coastal land, the building could suddenly disappear beneath the waves. And even without flooding, the sea will eventually claim the block, as erosion continues.
The building has been declared too dangerous for human habitation and the authorities have forced residents to leave.
But the 78 owners of the flats have taken the local government to court, arguing that the state is liable for the loss of the property because it was built legally with a construction permit.
Their demand for structures to be erected to prevent the sea from reaching the block of flats was rejected by the Bordeaux administrative court in September. It ruled that it was not feasible or desirable to protect the building, which contains asbestos.
The flat owners are appealing against the judgment, and they have rejected an offer by the government to pay them about €20,000 (£15,686) compensation each.
"It is ridiculously low," said the head of the owners' association, Jean-Jose Guichet. "My flat ought to be worth about €180,000 (£141,000). This is unacceptable."
The authorities have given the flat owners until February 20 to respond to the offer.
The Prefect of the Gironde department, Michel Delpuech, said it was "urgent" to agree on a settlement and find a solution. He said the local authorities had agreed to pay the €1.5 million (£1.17 million) cost of demolishing the building.