Anti-Gaddafi fighters on Monday tightened their siege of the ousted leader's hometown of Sirte, as civilians poured out of the Mediterranean coastal city where doctors spoke of a growing crisis.
Fighters loyal to Libya's new government also pounded Gaddafi's forces in the desert city of Bani Walid, southeast of Tripoli, as they sought to take the last two significant remaining bastions of his loyalists.
National Transitional Council (NTC) troops advancing from the east said they had pushed 10 kilometres inside Sirte city limits, but were still 15 kilometres from the centre of the sprawling city.
Hundreds of fearful residents fled the looming offensive to retake the city, arriving at NTC checkpoints on the front lines both east and west.
"The situation in the city is very critical," said Muftah Mohammed, a fish trader who was leaving in a convoy of seven vehicles with around 60 relatives and neighbours.
"There is no food, no water, no petrol and no electricity. This has been going on for nearly two months now as Gaddafi forces would not allow us to leave. "Children are in a particularly bad condition. There is no milk for them. We have all been surviving on just macaroni for several days."
The collapse of the mains supply has left residents without access to clean drinking water, triggering an epidemic of water-borne diseases.