Longford woman in Japan tells of food shortages and radiation fears

At 2.46pm (JST) on Friday March 11, Margaret Mary Lieb (nee McWeeney) was walking down the platform of one of Tokyo’s busiest train stations, Shibuya Station. Suddenly she heard a thundering sound that grew louder, but she thought to herself that it was just an approaching train. Then when Margaret Mary (Maggie) looked around her, she noticed that the signs and girders were shaking violently.

At 2.46pm (JST) on Friday March 11, Margaret Mary Lieb (nee McWeeney) was walking down the platform of one of Tokyo’s busiest train stations, Shibuya Station. Suddenly she heard a thundering sound that grew louder, but she thought to herself that it was just an approaching train. Then when Margaret Mary (Maggie) looked around her, she noticed that the signs and girders were shaking violently.

“It felt like the whole building was shaking from side to side,” said Maggie speaking to the Leader from her home in Tokyo. “There wasn’t a huge outpouring of panic but people were very concerned. They were calm and orderly though. I remember thinking to myself that there really is nothing that I can do except move towards the wall and the support beams and hope for the best.”

Maggie, who is married to Jon Lieb, is an Associate Professor of Language and Culture at Meiji University in Tokyo, the capital city of Japan.

“It only lasted one minute, or maybe one and a half minutes, but it felt a lot longer,” said Maggie, a daughter of Cathal and Margaret McWeeney of Teffia Park. “Every few minutes afterwards there were aftershocks. I stayed at the station as it was safer than going out into the street with the falling debris.”

The Japanese mobile phone network collapsed following the earthquake and Maggie did not know if Jon, an employee at Hosei University, was safe or not. Eventually they made contact through facebook.

“We both had iPhones luckily. Jon was stranded on a train at the time of the earthquake when it started to move from side to side,” said Maggie, who has lived in Japan for six years.

“Everybody is going about their daily business but the air is quite subdued and the streets are a lot quieter than usual on a weekday,” she said. “There is also a lot of panic buying of necessary supplies. Bread shelves are empty, which I have never seen before.”

The aftershocks are continuing on a regular basis in the capital city and many fear a nuclear explosion at Fukushima, roughly 150 miles away.

“It’s too close for comfort,” said Maggie. “We’re getting conflicting information all the time. News stories that say some radiation has been released but that there is no threat. Then we hear that the evacuation zone is expanding.”

Maggie feels that it is going to be a while before normal living resumes in Tokyo again. “I haven’t been able to return to work as they want to ensure that the building is structurally safe. Likewise Jon was told this morning (Monday) not to go into work as there had been some damage to the building,” she said.

Compared to north eastern Japan, Tokyo has escaped without any severe damage. “It shows how well built Tokyo is in that it could survive an earthquake of that magnitude,” said Maggie. “However, the fear about the nuclear reactor still remains and we’re just keeping a close watch on it and hoping for the best.”

Tokyo’s St Patrick’s Day on Sunday March 13, was also cancelled.