A business man from Athy, who was in Tokyo last week with work, narrowly missed one of the biggest ever recorded earthquake by 48 hours. Frank O’Brien JR, orginally from O’Briens Grocery and Bar in Emily Square, Athy, and MD of former Naas enterprise Donnelly Mirrors, lived in Tokyo for five and half years but now lives in Detroit.
He now works for Magna Mirrors and has spent the weekend trying to track down all 200 employees to ensure they survived the massive earthquake which hit Japan at around 2.46pm local time on March 11.
“We have four offices in Japan with one in Tokyo and I am there at least once a month,” said Mr O’Brien, speaking to the Leader from Detroit where he is now based. “I left on Wednesday. I haven’t looked at it like I’m lucky to be alive but I am glad I was not there for all that trauma. We did have one customer who was killed – they hold meetings in cafeterias over there because of the shortage of space. He was in the Honda cafeteria when the ceiling collapsed on Friday.”
The quake is the biggest to hit Japan since record-keeping began in the late 1800s. Thousands of people have been killed or are reported missing since the disaster which was followed by a tsunami in the North and a nuclear explosion at the 40 year old Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex due to a flaw in the cooling system after the tsunami.
“We have now decided to close our offices for at least a week,” he said. “We have 200 people employed there – we had to track them all down – every single one of them - which was difficult as there were no cell phones or land lines. Luckily the internet was a great help. It took two days but we accounted for everybody. There was one Irish person while the rest are Japanese.
“We had 20 people sleeping in our office while others were on the train when it happened and had to get off and walk along the track to safety. One man said 50 percent of his delph broke while his TV fell off the wall.
“All of our customers have shut down to carry out an assessment of damage and figure out what happens next. A lot of people have also been evacuated because of the nuclear blast. The Japanese people are used to earthquakes – they take it in their stride normally. They are also very organised and will put in 100 percent, 24 hours a day to get the country back up and running. They are a very committed people but the area where the tsunami hit was badly effected and people are very worried about the nuclear explosion. Also when there is an earthquake that big there is very often another one that follows.”