WRAPUP 3-China defends initial response to chemical fires after port blasts

Fri Aug 14, 2015 10:14am EDT
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(Adds Toyota injuries, Panalpina comment in paras 22 and 24)

* At least 21 firefighters among 56 killed

* Warehouse stored toxic chemicals and gas

* Official defends initial action of fire fighters

* Experts say initial use of water could have made situation worse

* Many foreign firms sustain largely minor damage to facilities

By Adam Rose and Megha Rajagopalan

TIANJIN, China, Aug 14 (Reuters) - China on Friday defended fire fighters who initially hosed water on a blaze in a warehouse storing volatile chemicals, a response foreign experts said could have contributed to two huge blasts that killed 56 people.

At least 21 fire fighters were among the victims of the explosions at the port in the northeastern city of Tianjin on Wednesday night, the official Xinhua news agency said, calling it possibly the highest death toll among fire crews since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.   Continued...