VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- As the enormity of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath sinks in, Europeans have been moved to help in ways great and small: from an Austrian university proposing to take in 500 students from New Orleans, to nations agreeing to tap into strategic oil reserves.
Amid the compassion, there was also surprise that America appeared so vulnerable and unprepared, and dismay the Bush administration plays down the global warming threat so many Europeans link to the force and frequency of such storms.
Across the continent, the media and governments focused on the tragedy, with newspapers running photos of victims wading chest-deep in water and television screens filled with fires.
The French daily Liberation described the scenes of devastation as a cruel spectacle for President Bush, ''the champion of security.'' Criticizing the disorder in the evacuation of hospitals, the editorial called Hurricane Katrina a ''natural disaster with political implications.'' Terror mastermind Osama bin Laden ''must be dying of laughter,'' it said.
In Italy, several newspapers said mounting criticism of Bush's handling of the relief effort was damaging his credibility. And Germany's Die Tageszeitung said the world was ''seeing scenes otherwise only known in African capitals. The forces of order are absent. Anarchy and chaos reign. Supermarkets are plundered, helicopters shot at.''
Some said perceived U.S. indifference to global warming was coming home to roost.
''What's absent is a debate over the climate, over Kyoto, over the human-caused warming of the earth,'' said an editorial in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, a Munich-based daily. ''But the oil shortage caused by the disaster will hurt Bush more than gaps in climate policy will.''
Concrete offers of help, though, were louder than the criticism. The governments of 26 countries agreed Friday to release the equivalent of 2 million barrels of oil per day from strategic fuel reserves to cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the International Energy Agency said.
With offers from around the globe pouring in, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice decided ''no offer that can help alleviate the suffering of the people in the afflicted area will be refused,'' State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday.
Spurred by images of people huddled on curbs begging for clean water and chaotic rescue efforts from rooftops, Europe also offered brainpower _ specialists in coordinating disaster relief, experts in rebuilding devastated communities and rescue workers familiar with risky maneuvers.
The U.N. created a special task force to dispatch disaster experts, while the European Union volunteered to send water supply specialists.
Rice on Friday disputed a report from Moscow that a Russian offer had been rejected, but said said some offers were being taken up immediately and others ''somewhat later,'' depending on need.
In televised comments late Friday, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia said three planes were ready to leave with rescue teams, equipment and aid, including water purification equipment and medicine.
''We are awaiting final confirmation from the American side,'' Lavrov said on Channel One.
Italy offered two military transport planes loaded with pumps, generators, amphibious crafts and tents. Germany pledged medical supplies. France dispatched rescue workers to determine what it could offer. NATO pledged its help, too.
In the Balkans, where the U.S. military has been deployed to keep the peace following a decade of conflict, offers were steeped in gratitude. A Bosnian television station offered to raise money. In Kosovo, a civil emergency unit made up of former ethnic Albanian rebels offered to send a team to help rebuild.
Elsewhere, Asia-Pacific nations, including tsunami-battered Sri Lanka, pledged money and disaster relief experts.