A look at the Japanese disaster
From March 11 to March 22 or 23 support for survivors was minimal. Supply was substantially less than demand — or needs — for water, food, pharmaceuticals, essential medical care and basic shelter. Since the 23rd or so fundamental human needs are being met in most areas.
The supply crunch has been mostly a matter of distribution capacity not supply capacity. Distribution was incapacitated by breaks in the transportation network, the communications network, and — especially — availability of fuel. (I continue to seek more information on the role of perimeter power in curtailing distribution capacity.) Hoarding hurt, but did not break supply capacity.
The transportation network was the first to bounce back. Given the power of the earthquake, this confirms the value of long-term investment in structural mitigation and resilience.
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Restoration of the communications network has been uneven and dramatically demonstrates the tight interdependence of the power and communications systems. In the immediate aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami cell phone communications was surprisingly robust. But as both towers and cell phones lost power and could not be recharged much of the system went dark. As electricity has been restored to the region, the communications network is also coming back, but it will be months before full restoration is achieved.