Panic spread across Hawaii on Saturday morning after a false alarm warned of a ballistic missle headed for the tiny US state located in the Central Pacific.
The emergency alert, which was sent to cellphones statewide just before 8.10 am, warned people about an inbound missile and asked them to seek immediate shelter.
“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL,” the alert read.
However, it took nearly 40 minutes for Hawaiian authorities to send a revised alert. They said it was mistakenly sent after someone hit the wrong button during a shift change. “We made a mistake,” said Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Vern Miyagi.
Spooked by the emergency alert, people abandoned cars on state highways and some prepared to flee their homes. Hawaii has been facing a nuclear threat from North Korea, which claims its missiles can hit the archipelago and other parts of the US. The state had recently reintroduced the Cold War-era warning siren tests last month.
Hawaii House Speaker Scott Saiki said the system Hawaii residents have been told to rely on failed miserably. He also took emergency management officials to task for taking 30 minutes to issue a correction, prolonging panic.
“Clearly, government agencies are not prepared and lack the capacity to deal with emergency situations,” he said in a statement.
For their part, Hawaii Gov. David Ige and Miyagi, the emergency management administrator, apologized and vowed changes.
“I am sorry for the pain and confusion it caused. I, too, am extremely upset about this and am doing everything I can do to immediately improve our emergency management systems, procedures and staffing,” Ige said.
with AP inputs