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Paris’ Moulin Rouge cabaret club in France lost the sails of its historic windmill — a symbol almost as iconic to the City of Lights as the Eiffel Tower — overnight Wednesday. 

The sails, or blades, fell from the red windmill that tops the tourist venue, known for its can-can dancers, sometime before 2 a.m., the Moulin Rouge’s general manager told reporters. 

“The Moulin Rouge, in 135 years of history, has experienced many adventures, but it is true that for the wings, this is the first time that this has happened,” Jean-Victor Clerico said.

He added, “A little before 2 a.m., the wings of the windmill gave way, fell on the boulevard and fortunately at this time the boulevard was empty of passersby. We are relieved this morning, especially to know that there were no injuries.”

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A split of the Moulin Rouge's windmill before and after the sails fell

It’s the first time the Moulin Rouge’s sails have fallen in its 135-year history, the general manager said.  (Reuters/Benoit Tessier)

The Moulin Rouge generally has two 90-minute shows each night, at 9 and 11 p.m. 

“I heard it on the radio. As I live next door, I wanted to come and see with my own eyes what it was like and it’s very sad,” resident Laurence Plu told Reuters. “It’s not the Moulin anymore, it lost his wings, it lost his soul.”

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Moulin Rouge's windmill without sails

Moulin Rouge’s windmill without its sails.  (Reuters/Benoit Tessier)

The Moulin Rouge was founded in 1889, and its famous can-can dancers have been depicted in paintings by the likes of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who also frequented the place in its early days. It was also depicted in the 2001 musical starring Nicole Kidman of the same name. 

Clerico said the club will investigate what caused the sails to fall but said it didn’t appear to be intentional. 

Broken sails being removed

The Moulin Rouge’s broken sails were removed Thursday.  (Reuters/Benoit Tessier)

Danish tourist Lise Thygesen told Reuters she hoped the sails would be restored, so it would remain the “old Moulin Rouge” and German tourist Florence Chevalier said that the windmill symbolized Paris for him.

Moulin Rouge in 1900

The Moulin Rouge was founded in 1889.  (George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)

“It’s weird to me, it’s Paris. It’s like the Eiffel Tower, it’s Paris. It’s weird, you can’t say it any other way,” he explained. 

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The incident comes almost exactly five years after a 2019 fire destroyed Notre-Dame cathedral’s wooden spire,  wooden roof and damaged its walls. Restoration work is still underway. 

A new spire was revealed in February. 

Reuters contributed to this report. 

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