Tripoli (AFP) - Residents of a Libyan town have buried the decomposing bodies of 21 migrants who had washed up on their beach after authorities failed to act, an NGO and medics said Monday.
The first bodies were spotted on the beach of Al-Maya, just west of the capital Tripoli, on August 2, said a statement from a civil society association in Wersheffana district where Al-Maya is located.
It said in a statement that over the next three days more bodies washed up on the beach, bringing the total to 21, and that they were in an "advanced state of decomposition".
"The residents became increasingly scared this could spark diseases and epidemics," it said.
The Libyan Red Crescent in Janzur, a suburb of Tripoli, were informed of the situation and dispatched staff to Al-Maya, said its chief Hussam Nasr.
"We went there to retrieve the bodies and to lift DNA samples," said Nasr.
"We also tried to get in touch with the authorities to secure a permit to bury the bodies to no avail and the bodies remained on the beach for three days," he said.
Concerned by the "health hazard" decomposing bodies could pose, residents decided not to wait anymore for an official permit and took matters into their own hands, he said.
On Saturday they buried the unidentified bodies in a cemetery in Al-Maya, where a Muslim funeral service took place.
People smugglers have taken advantage of the chaos gripping Libya since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi to boost their lucrative business.
They cram migrants into boats that are small and unsafe for the perilous journey to Italy just 300 kilometres (190 miles) from Libya's shores.
Thousands of migrants try each year to make the sea crossing but many drown.
A total of 4,027 migrants and refugees have perished since January trying to flee wars and poverty looking for a better life mainly in Europe, the International Organization for Migration said Tuesday.
Of that total, some 3,120 died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, including 120 who drowned off Libya's coastal town of Sabratha at the end of July, it said.