Mike Hommey has a nice article on clearing down deleted (but still-open) files:
http://glandium.org/blog/?p=211. He explains the problem clearly, and goes on to provide the solution, too. Well worth bookmarking, for that 2am emergency!
someone had to free some space on a 1GB filesystem, and thought a good idea would be to delete that 860MB log file that nobody cares about. Except that it didn’t really remove it, but he didn’t really check.
Later, the “filesystem full” problem came back at someone else, who came to ask me what files from a small list he could remove. But the files were pretty small, and that wouldn’t have freed enough space. That gave me the feeling that we probably were in this typical case I introduced this post with, which du -sk confirmed: 970MB used on the filesystem according to df, but only 110MB worth of data…
Mike has solutions to this for Solaris and Linux;
lsof is also useful for this kind of thing, on systems which have it.