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Algeria death toll at 337 and expected to rise

Makeshift morgues were set up in the capital Sunday as rescuers pulled bodies from collapsed buildings after a 36-hour storm pounded Algeria, killing at least 337 people and injuring hundreds of others.

The government announced it would offer housing and financial assistance to those hardest hit by the devastating rainstorm. French rescue experts arrived in Algiers to assess damage.

Sheets of rain and violent winds lashed the capital, Algiers, on Friday and Saturday, sending water rushing through its streets and mud cascading down the Mediterranean city's hilly terrain.

"Bodies were carried down to the sea and then were thrown by the waves onto the beach," said Loic Fauchon, who was working in Algiers when the storm hit.

Officials said they expected the death toll to rise.

STORM KILLS 3 IN VIETNAM: Typhoon Lingling roared ashore in central Vietnam today, killing three people and unleashing heavy rains and gusts that downed power and telephone lines throughout the area. The storm, which left 171 dead and 118 missing in the Philippines, brought 83 mph gusts when it hit Vietnam.

Secret trial opens for reform backers in Iran

TEHRAN, Iran _ Thirty-one members of an outlawed reformist group went on trial Sunday in closed-door proceedings that could set up another clash between conservatives and moderate President Mohammad Khatami.

Khatami, who has recently challenged the expansive powers of the hard-line judiciary, has called the nonjury trial for the Freedom Movement backers unconstitutional.

Members of the group, including a former government minister, are accused of threatening national security and seeking to topple the Islamic establishment. Conviction by the Revolutionary Court could bring death sentences.

The trial resumes today and is expected to last for weeks.

Elsewhere . . .

KOREAN AGREEMENT: North and South Korean negotiators agreed to stage a new round of reunions for 200 separated family members by the end of the year, South Korean media reports said today.

TAIWAN WTO: The World Trade Organization accepted Taiwan's membership Sunday in Doha, Qatar, a day after approving rival China. China, meanwhile, was moving fast to formalize its membership. Foreign trade minister Shi Guangsheng was expected to give the ratification documents to WTO director-general Mike Moore on Sunday night. China will become a full-fledged member Dec. 11, he said. Most nations take months to complete ratification.

KASHMIR SHOOTOUTS: Indian security forces battled suspected Islamic militants in the disputed Kashmir region, police said Sunday. Eighteen people were killed, including two soldiers.

BELFAST VIOLENCE: A teenage boy, 17, died Sunday after a homemade grenade exploded in his hand during clashes between rival Catholic and Protestant groups in north Belfast. Two other men were injured in the explosion while 17 police officers and two soldiers were hurt in the riots, police said.

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