Why are Normandy’s cliffs eroding so quickly?

STORY: This is what Normandy's Cap Fagnet cliff looked like - decades ago.

And this is what it looks like now.

A 130 by 50 foot segment of it vanished on February 22nd...

...in the latest episode of cliffside erosion facing this small French town.

Residents of Fecamp say they were left shocked.

“We heard a big boom and felt the ground tremble beneath our feet. The couch, the TV - nothing moved, but we felt the earth quake beneath our feet.”

They say the incident is symbolic of the accelerating pace of erosion here.

But - why are Normandy's cliffs eroding so quickly?

Landslides on the coast are a regular occurrence, according to Fecamp’s mayor David Roussel.

He says the town saw 60 of them in 2022 alone.

What is new - is how dangerously close the eroding parts are to residential areas.

“That’s especially what we have to consider, to see how to think of urbanization with regard to these residential areas amid the receding coastline, which is spreading in our region.”

But February's landslide equated to 100 years' worth of erosion - taking place in a single day, according to France's center for environmental planning.

The town's deputy mayor - Pierre Aubry - blames abnormal climate events.

“We have climate change – we had very dry and hot summers with little rains, then came a period of heavy rains. Then a few weeks ago, we had temperatures of -5 or -10 degrees Celsius, meaning a frost period that tends to make water contract and cause even more fissures on rocks. We have rising water levels and fewer pebbles near the cliffs, there are fewer than before because of the pier. And so all of this, all these elements combined accelerate the erosion system.”

Normandy isn't alone in facing these issues.

France's coastal protection agency estimates that some 50,000 residences around France are in zones that will require them to be moved by the end of the century.

In early February - an apartment building in Soulac-sur-Mer in Southwestern France was demolished.

The town is suffering some of the fastest coastal erosions in the country - with beaches disappearing at a rate of about 8 feet per year in past decades.

Authorities say it's something they simply cannot control - as they try to discuss what to do next.

“We take the receding coastline very seriously, because we observe that with the changing climate, we see events happening earlier than expected.”

As for Fecamp - a 100-meter security perimeter has been established around the eroded cliff.

In the rubble surrounding it, a broken cross serves as a reminder of what once stood in its place.