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Corpses mount as Tripoli faces humanitarian crisis

UP TO 80 bodies have been found decomposing at a Libyan hospital -- some having been apparently executed.

Four days after the battle started, the rotting corpses still lie in the Abu Selim Hospital, perhaps the worst symptom of the humanitarian crisis threatening to overtake Tripoli.

Some witnesses estimated the number of dead bodies at close to 80. Maggots were eating their faces, and their bodies had burst open in the 95F heat.

One had a eight-inch hole at the top of his head, one was burned, with the skeleton showing through, one had his hands bound behind his back.

Their skin, though now grey with putrefaction, had originally been black: these were mostly sub-Saharan Africans. They were mercenaries killed fighting for Gaddafi, said the volunteers who turned up in late afternoon to try to remove them.

At least two were dressed in military trousers; others wore quite expensive shoes, not much seen in Libya.

But it is perfectly possible that not all were mercenaries; that in the fear and terror of urban warfare they were killed simply because of assumptions derived from their skin colour.

"It is a catastrophe, a crime against civilised standards," said Osama Bheleel, a cardiologist at a different hospital.

"I am ashamed for myself as a doctor to see these people.

"You can tell that some of them were alive when they came in, but there was no one there for them. There have been no medical staff at this hospital since Monday. Even now, everyone here is a volunteer."

The horror of Abu Selim is only the most extreme example of a city in growing humanitarian difficulties.

In other hospitals, patients are in pain for lack of essential drugs. Tripoli has now been without water for at least two days, meaning that no one can wash, cook, or dispose of sewage. Last night the electricity in the city centre became the latest service to fail.

At hospitals and elsewhere, eager revolutionary volunteers are trying to fill the gap. But there is still a great deal to do.