The primary concern of the ruling elite is the protection of property and of property rights (contracts) and only secondarily the protection of people and their autonomy.
A society that uses free markets to do most of its public and private allocation could well be expected to favor material property over the personal welfare of the population.
Sabbatical years are about the temporary suspension of property rights. Disasters should be understood as mini-sabbatical years.
The response of the ruling elite to protect property before the personal welfare of the population is what we call 'elite panic.' Elite panic is the attempt to countermand the sabbatical year character of a disaster.
The greater the inequality in apportionment, the greater the upper class's fear that the lower classes will pillage and loot should the ruling powers lose control of the social order. Elite panic's severity should be in direct correlation with how far the upper class would fall should they become part of the lower classes.