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updated 9/2/2005 4:51:03 PM ET 2005-09-02T20:51:03

The world's reaction to the Hurricane Katrina disaster has produced three main responses: sympathy for the plight of the victims; awe at the scale of the devastation; and horror at how quickly New Orleans has descended into anarchy.

More than 20 countries have offered assistance, even though President Bush has said that the U.S. can take care of the situation itself.

The U.S. state department said it had received offers of help from Belgium, Canada, Russia, Japan, France, Germany, Britain, China, Australia, Jamaica, Honduras, Greece, Venezuela, the Organization of American States, Nato, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Greece, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, South Korea, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

John Howard, Australia's prime minister, on Friday pledged to send 20 disaster experts and A$10 million ($7.7 million) to the U.S. "There should not be an assumption that because America is the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world, this isn't a major challenge and a major crisis," he said.

Sri Lanka, one of the recipients of U.S. assistance following last year's Asian tsunami, offered $25,000 in aid for the victims.

Tony Blair, the U.K. prime minister, promised to help "in any way we can." "The whole of this country feels for the people of the Gulf Coast of America who have been afflicted by what is a terrible, terrible natural tragedy."

There has not been such a global upsurge of popular emotion and public donations in response to Hurricane Katrina as occurred in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami last December. But the scale of the Asian crisis and the poverty of the affected countries both weighed heavily on public sentiment.

Le Monde, the French daily newspaper, noted that the hurricane had hit an area of 235,000 sq km, equivalent to half the surface of France. It said the hurricane had reawakened the superpower's fears about its vulnerability and highlighted the country's social inequalities. "New Orleans is a city that is 67 percent black. Thirty per cent of its population live below the poverty line."

Germany's conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper noted in an editorial on Friday that the "community spirit and optimism among the American people" would ensure they would overcome the catastrophe, but added: "One should be allowed to ask whether the authorities reacted quickly enough, whether the preparations for such a disaster were extensive enough and whether the relief efforts functioned properly."

The popular European press focused more on the lawlessness in New Orleans. Britain's Sun newspaper declared: "Anarchy in the U.S.", describing the city's descent into a "lawless hell."

© The Financial Times Ltd 2013. "FT" and "Financial Times" are trademarks of the Financial Times.

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