Published: Sun, January 14, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

A wave of panic rattles Hawaii after false missile alert


The local authority in the north Pacific U.S. State of Hawaii apologized for a false emergency alert on Saturday morning warning residents of an imminent ballistic missile threat, which had caused panic cross the islands.

The incident prompted defense agencies including the Pentagon and the U.S. Pacific Command to issue the same statement, that they had "detected no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii".

"Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii", the original message read.

The snafu comes amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, which has been sanctioned over missile tests.

"Today is a day that most of us will never forget", said Hawaii Gov. David Ige.

It turned out to be a false alarm - someone "clicked the wrong thing", according to a spokesperson for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. She awakened her 16-year-old daughter with the news.

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"Here, there is nothing you can do", she said.

"It was a procedure that occurs at the change of shift where they go through to make sure that the system, that it's working".

Miyagi, who said Hawaii would have only 12 to 13 minutes of warning in an actual attack, declined to say what action would be taken against the employee.

Officials in the country quickly ruled out hacking and have said that human error was to blame during a routine test of its systems during a shift change.

"There is a screen that says, 'Are you sure you want to do this?'" Miyagi said, adding that the employee "feels awful about it".

Miyagi said he meant to produce a report about the incident by next week.

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"This will not happen again", he added. "You don't get a do-over for something like that".

The US government announced there would be a full investigation. Earlier this week, FCC chairman Ajit Pai said the agency would vote at its January meeting to enhance the effectiveness of wireless emergency alerts, which have been in place since 2012.

Hawaii U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz tweeted the false alarm was "totally inexcusable".

Hawaii's economy depends heavily on tourism. Hawaii's governor said that a state employee erroneously pushed the incorrect button, sending the message out to phones and sparking feelings of panic and uncertainty, as the Big Hurt put it.

With the threat of missiles from North Korea in people's minds, the state reintroduced the Cold War-era warning siren tests last month that drew worldwide attention.

Hawaii is more than 4,000 miles away from the South Side, but one of the greatest White Sox ever was one of the many people in Hawaii who received a false-alarm phone notification that the state was under attack.

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Megumi Gong, a housewife and college student from Shizuoka Prefecture who has lived in Honolulu for the last three years, said she had initially doubted the alert was an actual North Korean missile launch, adding that "even ... if they launched a missile, it would take hours to get here, so I guessed that the US military can fire back".

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