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China Defends Handling Of Toxic Benzene Spill, Blames Oil Company…

HARBIN, China - China's government defended its handling of a chemical plant explosion that sent a 50-mile-long toxic slick of river water coursing through a major city Thursday and blamed the disaster on a subsidiary of a state-owned oil company.

The benzene slick on the Songhua River in northeast China flowed into Harbin days after the city of 3.8 million people shut down its water system, setting off panicked buying that cleared supermarket shelves of bottled water, milk and soft drinks. The government said it would take about 40 hours for the chemical to pass the city.