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Maine gov supports town damaged by train explosion

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) -- Gov. Paul LePage pledged Maine's support for the people affected by the oil train derailment in Quebec as he prepares to visit the area this weekend, delivering his message in both English and French, believed to be a first for a Maine governor.

In his weekly radio address Thursday, LePage said that Maine will stand with the province as it recovers from the crash in Lac-Megantic — just across the Maine border — that left 47 people dead and leveled much of the small downtown.

"While a line divides our countries, it does not divide its people," he said.

LePage's office said it believes it's the first time a Maine governor has given an address in French. LePage, whose ancestry is French-Canadian, is Maine's first Franco-American to be popularly elected Maine governor.

"For years these two communities have forged relationships to share culture and economic growth," LePage said. "And in difficult times like this, those bonds extend even farther."

The July 6 crash occurred when an unattended train hurtled down a seven-mile incline, derailed and ignited in Lac-Megantic.

LePage is planning to visit the town Saturday, where he will attend a ceremony for the victims of the crash. Before the ceremony, the governor will meet with Lac-Megantic Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche and other Canadian officials.

The incident in Lac-Megantic has raised questions about rail safety in Maine and elsewhere. In his address, LePage said the administration is working to ensure the safety of Maine's transportation infrastructure.

In the days following the crash, LePage directed the state Department of Transportation to review Maine's freight railroads. LePage said his administration is also communicating with Quebec's Ministry of Transportation regarding safety concerns and improvements.

"Our administration is working diligently to ensure the safety of Maine citizens and protect the environment and those efforts will not end on my watch," he said. "The tragedy in Lac-Megantic, which claimed too many lives, brings grief and sorrow. Despite its devastation, it reminds us how resilient we are."