An explosion rocked a stricken oil tanker off the coast of Shanghai yesterday, forcing maritime authorities to suspend firefighting and rescue efforts, Chinese officials said.
He said: "The engine room is not directly affected by the fire and is about 14 meters under water... there is still hope".
The 21 Chinese crew members of the CF Crystal vessel, which had been carrying grain from the United States, were rescued.
One body has been found but 31 sailors - mainly Iranians - remain missing with officials in Iran hoping they have found sanctuary on an unaffected part of the vessel.
The tanker hit a freight ship on Saturday night in the East China Sea and burst into flames after spilling oil.
Chinese firefighters spent Thursday struggling to extinguish the blaze as criticism mounted in Iran over whether enough was being done to locate dozens of its missing crew members.
"The problem is the ship's heavy bunker fuel", said Chauncey Naylor, a USA -based director of emergency response and training at Tyco Corp's oil-fire specialists Williams Fire & Hazard Control, which is not involved in the clean-up.
The resulting spill would be about three times as big as the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989, one of the worst environmental disasters in history.
The Sanchi was carrying almost 1 million barrels of ultra-light oil when it collided Saturday evening with a freighter 160 miles off the coast and caught fire.
An Iranian crude oil tanker, Sanchi, collided with Chinese freighter CF Crystal during the weekend.
The Sanchi was delivering 136,000 tonnes of condensate, a highly flammable ultra-light crude, to South Korea.
Zhao Ruxiang, an expert with China's Yantai Oil Spill Response Technical Centre, was quoted by the ministry as saying that a simulation test showed condensate oil in the water can evaporate so quickly that it will leave little residue - less than 1 percent after five hours.