Panic spread through the state of Hawaii on Saturday morning when residents received a phone alert for an ‘inbound ballistic missile threat’ that was accidentally sent out by Civil Defense but which was not corrected for the best part of an hour. 

Scores of confused residents tweeted screenshots of the warnings after receiving the alert at 8.07 local time. 

It read: ‘BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL’.

A similar message flashed up on local television networks and brought live sports games to a halt. 

It was caused by an employee at Civil Defense who ‘pushed the wrong buttons’ during a shift handover.  

The mistake was corrected by government agencies on Twitter 12 minutes later but it took 37 minutes for another phone alert to be issued confirming to residents that it was a false alarm. Some say they never received a second phone alert at all.  

By the time it was issued, terrified residents and tourists including basketball legend Magic Johnson flocked to shelters and into their garages in fear of a nuclear attack. 

When it became clear that it was a false alarm, their panic turned to fury.  

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Residents of Hawaii are furiously asking why it took officials a whole 37 minutes to correct a missile threat warning that was sent out on Saturday morning, sparking panic across the state 

This was the alert which was issued among residents at 8.08am, sparking hysteria and panic

This was the alert which was issued among residents at 8.08am, sparking hysteria and panic

Residents took the alert on face value and frantically reposted it on social media

Residents took the alert on face value and frantically reposted it on social media

‘Imagine this for 37 agonizing minutes before it is deemed a false alarm,’ said one person. 

Lawmakers slammed the mistake as ‘inexcusable’ and said ‘the whole state was terrified’.  

Another critic said the delay in phone alerts meant that only people with access to social media would have known it was a false alarm straight away.

It took until 8.45am to state it was a false alarm. 37 minutes where anyone in Hawaii who doesn’t sit on Twitter dot com all day thought their island might be incinerated.

‘Fire people. Fix it,’ one outraged commentator said. 

I’m in Honolulu and my family is on the North Shore. They were hiding in the garage. My mom and sister were crying

Hawaii journalist Sarah Donchey 

At the same time as the phone alert, an emergency alert was broadcast across radio and television networks. 

It told viewers and listeners: ‘If you are outdoors, seek immediate shelter in a building. Remain indoors well away from windows.

‘If you are driving, pull safely to the side of the road and seek shelter.’ 

The second message, sent at 8.45am, said: ‘There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii. Repeat. False Alarm.’  

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency tweeted this out, 12 minutes after the threat was issued to confirm the error. This post was made at 8.20am local time, 1.20pm EST

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency tweeted this out, 12 minutes after the threat was issued to confirm the error. This post was made at 8.20am local time, 1.20pm EST

Calls from frightened residents inundated Civil Defense immediately asking for more information or advice after the first alert was issued. 

People who say they got through to the office were then told it was a mistake that was caused by an employee who ‘pushed the wrong buttons’ during a drill. 

One woman called 911 in panic and said she was told by the operator that staff were performing a drill when ‘someone pushed the wrong buttons’. 

‘Called 911…Operator said it’s a drill of Civil Defense Emergency System but someone pushed the wrong buttons..

‘No missile is headed toward the State of Hawaii REPEAT….NO MISSILE IS HEADED TOWARD THE STATE OF HAWAII.’  

A Hawaii Civil Defense official is seen above on Saturday writing instructions for dispatchers fielding calls from terrified locals

A Hawaii Civil Defense official is seen above on Saturday writing instructions for dispatchers fielding calls from terrified locals

Hawaii Civil Defense startled most many Hawaii residents early Saturday, by sending a Civil Defense alert via cellular phones that a nuclear missile was heading towards Hawaii and to take cover

Hawaii Civil Defense startled most many Hawaii residents early Saturday, by sending a Civil Defense alert via cellular phones that a nuclear missile was heading towards Hawaii and to take cover

Residents were furious about the 37 minute delay which meant that 'anyone who doesn't sit on Twitter' was unaware that it was a false alarm for the best part of an hour 

Residents were furious about the 37 minute delay which meant that ‘anyone who doesn’t sit on Twitter’ was unaware that it was a false alarm for the best part of an hour 

Some described the delay as 'agonizing' - particularly in a state which is one of the most vulnerable to any nuclear threat from North Korea 

Some described the delay as ‘agonizing’ – particularly in a state which is one of the most vulnerable to any nuclear threat from North Korea 

Governor Ige confirmed as much when he spoke to CNN later in the morning.  

‘It was a mistake made during a standard procedure at the change over of a shift, and an employee pushed the wrong button,’ he said. 

The Civil Defense phone lines were consistently busy on Saturday and the Department of Defense has not responses to questions on the matter. 

Governor David Ige confirmed later in the afternoon that the button which launched the push alert was pressed by accident during a shift changeover at the Civil Defense's headquarters

Governor David Ige confirmed later in the afternoon that the button which launched the push alert was pressed by accident during a shift changeover at the Civil Defense’s headquarters

It is not clear yet whether the person responsible for the error will lose their job. 

The Federal Communications Commission has launched an investigation into the error.

The White House confirmed later in the day that President Trump had been briefed on the mistake. 

‘The President has been briefed on the state of Hawaii’s emergency management exercise.

‘This was purely a state exercise,’ said spokeswoman Lindsay Walters.  

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency tweeted 12 minutes after the first phone alert was issued to say it was a false alarm. 

The state’s governor David Ige quickly retweeted the post as did other lawmakers.  

They vowed to get to the bottom of how such a colossal error was made.  

‘There is nothing more important to Hawai’i than professionalizing and fool-proofing this process,’ Senator Brian Schatz tweeted.

Hawaii is within the range of the latest intercontinental ballistic missiles that North Korea has been testing. It, along with Alaska, are the most vulnerable states to a threat 

Hawaii is within the range of the latest intercontinental ballistic missiles that North Korea has been testing. It, along with Alaska, are the most vulnerable states to a threat 

Kim Jong Un has test launched several intercontinental ballistic missiles in the last year, some of which have the capacity to reach Hawaii 

Kim Jong Un has test launched several intercontinental ballistic missiles in the last year, some of which have the capacity to reach Hawaii 

Ajit Pai, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, confirmed that an investigation will be carried out 

Ajit Pai, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, confirmed that an investigation will be carried out 

He went on: ‘What happened today is totally inexcusable. 

‘The whole state was terrified. There needs to be tough and quick accountability and a fixed process.’ 

Terrified residents later described how they packed into their garages to take shelter and sent messages to each other to say: ‘I love you’.  

Videos circulated of children being dropped into storm drains for shelter though those are unconfirmed. 

There were also unconfirmed reports of tourists being escorted into a ‘bomb shelter’ at Pearl Harbour. 

Senators Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz said the mistake was caused by 'human error'. They slammed it as being 'inexcusable' given the rising tensions between the US and North Korea

Senators Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz said the mistake was caused by ‘human error’. They slammed it as being ‘inexcusable’ given the rising tensions between the US and North Korea

How Hawaii was gripped by panic as phones and TV stations broadcast false missile warning

Panic and terror gripped residents and visitors in Hawaii on Saturday after authorities said there was an incoming ballistic missile only to later clarify that it was a false alarm.

Social media users posted videos, photos, and testimonials about residents hurriedly taking up shelter while thinking they were under attack.

 ‘I was sitting in the bathtub with my children, saying our prayers,’ Hawaii state representative Matt LoPresti told CNN in emotional interview after false missile alert. 

One Twitter user wrote: 'My family was hiding in the garage. My mom and sister were crying. It was a false alarm, but betting a lot of people are shaken'

One Twitter user wrote: ‘My family was hiding in the garage. My mom and sister were crying. It was a false alarm, but betting a lot of people are shaken’

One Twitter user wrote: ‘My family was hiding in the garage. My mom and sister were crying. It was a false alarm, but betting a lot of people are shaken.’

‘Talking to loved ones in Hawaii, the reality of the situation is everyone thought they were going to die for 40-minutes,’ tweeted another Twitter user. 

‘Let that sink in. Extremely traumatizing and please send your love to everyone there.’

Current NBA star Karl-Anthony Towns tweeted: ‘Words cannot describe the relief my family and I feel that the alarm in Hawaii was false.

‘My girlfriend was born and raised in Hawaii and with most of her family there, the panic was real.

‘We should thank god for every day no matter the struggles and tell our family we love them.’ 

CNN host Jake Tapper tweeted: ‘So sorry for all the people in Hawaii who went through that – we know someone who’s there with her family.

‘Crying in closet texting goodbyes to loved ones, husband shielding their baby. Sounds traumatic. Hang in there, folks.’ 

Maureen McCormick tweeted: ‘My family in Hawaii got a phone alert and hid in the bathroom with kids for a good 10 minutes thinking “This is going to be it.”

‘So terrifying.’ 

Lorenza Ingram, a producer for CNN, told the network: ‘We got alerts on our phone… we opened our sliding glass door to look out onto the beach, we saw probably 10 different families running, not walking, running back to their room.’ 

Another CNN producer, David Shortell, told the network: ‘There was a bit of running and shouting after [the alert was received]… People were nervous.’ 

Shortell described ‘a pretty harrowing 15 minutes’ huddling in a garage with families and young children.   





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