Libya warns against diseases in Benghazi

Fighting has disrupted wheat and food imports to the east, forcing importers to bring in food via Egypt or Tobruk

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Libyan authorities warned on Monday that diseases might break out in the eastern city of Benghazi due to imported meat left rotting for months in containers at the city's closed commercial port.

Libya's second-largest city has been a war zone for over a year with forces loyal to the official government based in the east fighting Islamist groups, part of chaos in the oil producer four years after the ousting of Muammar Qaddafi.

Imported meat, vegetables and dairy products have been stored in containers in the port since it closed in November when fighting reached the central area.

The containers were never delivered to customers. Port workers stored part of the load in refrigerators but they stopped working due to daily electricity outages, officials said. The stench has become so bad that residents living outside the port area smell it.

"There is a large number of containers full of chicken, meat or other food," said Awad al-Qowriri, a health official in Benghazi. Diseases will break out if the food is not destroyed, he said.

The fighting has disrupted wheat and food imports to the east, forcing importers to bring in food via Egypt or Tobruk, a small eastern port.

Some meat storage facilities in the city stopped working after power went off for 26 hours since Sunday, officials said.

A spokesman for the state electricity firm said the grid was close to collapse as fighting made it impossible to access several damaged plants.

The Benghazi war highlights the chaos in Libya, where armed groups back two governments vying for control. The official prime minister has been based in the east since the capital, Tripoli, was seized by a rival group which set up its own government.

Both sides command loose coalitions of former anti-Gaddafi rebels. After the ouster of Qaddafi, the various factions split along political, regional and tribal lines.