Honolulu (AFP) – An alert warning of an incoming ballistic missile aimed at Hawaii was sent in error Saturday, sowing panic and confusion across the US state — which is already on edge over the risk of attack — before officials dubbed it a “false alarm.”
Emergency management officials eventually determined the notification was sent just after 8:00 am (1800 GMT) during a shift change and a drill after “the wrong button was pushed” — a mistake that lit up phones across the archipelago with a disturbing alert urging people to “seek immediate shelter.”
There were frenzied scenes of people rushing to safety — a bathtub, a basement, a manhole, cowering under mattresses.
Adventurer Alison Teal called it “the worst moment of my life.”
The erroneous message came after months of soaring tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, with North Korea saying it has successfully tested ballistic missiles that could deliver atomic warheads to the United States, including the chain of volcanic islands.
“I deeply apologize for the trouble and heartbreak that we caused today,” said Vern Miyagi, administrator of Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency.
“We’ve spent the last few months trying to get ahead of this whole threat, so that we could provide as much notification and preparation to the public.
“We made a mistake,” he acknowledged in a press conference. “We’re going to take processes and study this so that this doesn’t happen again.
“The governor has directed that we hold off any more tests until we get this squared away.”
As social media ignited with screenshots of the cell phone emergency warning, Representative Tulsi Gabbard quickly tweeted that it was a “FALSE ALARM,” with Hawaii’s EMA confirming “there is NO missile threat to Hawaii.”
US military spokesman David Benham later said US Pacific Command “has detected no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii. Earlier message was sent in error.”
The warning — which came across the Emergency Alert System that authorities nationwide use to…