People in the village of Gabarus in Cape Breton are appealing to the government to fix the community's seawall before approaching fall storms destroy it.
Mildred Gray, 92, lives close to the wooden seawall, which has been twisted by age and is split throughout from top to bottom.
"It's a terrible thing to think we live in 2012 and we can't get the village protected because the government says they don't have the responsibility of protecting the village and the people and the homes and the fishing industry," she told CBC News on Wednesday.
Gray said she still remembers an earthquake in 1929 that caused major flooding in Gabarus, on the eastern coast of Cape Breton.
"We had a severe earthquake but the earthquake didn't do any damage. At about 9 o'clock when the tide came in, it came in as a tidal wave," she said.
"Everybody is in fear that that may happen at any time and if it does, it would eliminate the whole village."
Gray said after Gabarus was flooded in 1929, residents had to be taken out of their homes by boat.
The federal government built the seawall in the 1940s and it was repaired in the 80s.
After a site visit in April, the provincial Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal issued a report that concluded the seawall was approaching the end of its service life. The report called the situation "urgent" and said short-term fixes — such as armour rock — should be in place before September.
But the provincial and federal governments are still discussing who should pay for repairs or replacement.
Heather Hayes, of the community group Friends of Gabarus, said the aging community fears the next big storm.
"It's our biggest fear. It's every night, you going to bed and you're not sure if half of the village is going to be gone before the next day," she said.
"People should be allowed to sleep in their own beds without fear."
Hayes said the report produced by the province estimated a short-term repair for the seawall would cost about $600,000, while a full replacement would cost more than $4 million.
While the village waits for the structure to be fixed, Hayes said her group is calling on the provincial Emergency Management Office to prepare an evacuation plan in case the seawall falls apart.