‘Seek immediate shelter’: Hawaiians panic, say last goodbyes after false missile alert

An erroneous message lit up phones across Hawaii with a disturbing alert urging people to “seek immediate shelter.”
An electronic sign reads "There is no threat" in Oahu, Hawaii, U.S., after a false emergency alert that said a ballistic missile was headed for Hawaii, in this January 13, 2018 photo obtained from social media.(Instagram/@sighpoutshrug/via REUTERS)
An electronic sign reads "There is no threat" in Oahu, Hawaii, U.S., after a false emergency alert that said a ballistic missile was headed for Hawaii, in this January 13, 2018 photo obtained from social media.(Instagram/@sighpoutshrug/via REUTERS)
Updated on Jan 14, 2018 01:22 PM IST
Copy Link
Hindustan Times, Washington | ByYashwant Raj

Panic struck the state of Hawaii, one of the closest US destinations to North Korea, Saturday morning as an emergency alert of an incoming missile flashed across cellphones in the archipelago and lasted 38 minutes despite assurances from officials and agencies that it was a false alarm.

A combination photograph shows screenshots from a cell phone displaying an alert for a ballistic missile launch and the subsequent false alarm message in Hawaii January 13, 2018. (REUTERS)
A combination photograph shows screenshots from a cell phone displaying an alert for a ballistic missile launch and the subsequent false alarm message in Hawaii January 13, 2018. (REUTERS)

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (EMA) scrambled to end the panic with a second message that it was a false alarm.

As social media ignited with screenshots of the cell phone emergency warning, Hawaii’s EMA confirmed that there was no missile threat.

Tulsi Gabbard, the Democratic Congresswoman from the state and co-chair of the India Caucus, also tweeted on similar lines at 8:20 am local time.

Residents and tourists in the state, which has in view of the threat from North Korea reactivated cold-war era nuclear attack sirens, went into panic, ran for shelter and, some of them, had began texting out their last goodbyes to their loved one.

President Donald Trump, who was on a golf course in Florida at the time, was briefed about it, the White House said in a statement, and went on to add it “was purely a state exercise”. He was also informed immediately it was a mistake.

But it remained unclear how the mistake came about. Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, which runs these emergency services with private wireless providers and state agencies, had ordered an inquiry.

The state was in full emergency mode, people and businesses, and let up only after the final all-clear that went out at 8:45 am.

The false alarm sent social media into an overdrive with screenshots of the cell phone emergency warning.

This photo illustration screenshot taken by the photographer of his cell phone shows messages of emergency alerts on January 13, 2018 of Honolulu, Hawaii. (AFP)
This photo illustration screenshot taken by the photographer of his cell phone shows messages of emergency alerts on January 13, 2018 of Honolulu, Hawaii. (AFP)

But lives had been turned upside down for those few minutes.

“I literally sent out ‘I love you’ texts to as many family members as I could, Noah Tom, a Honolulu resident said to The Washington Post. “It was all kind of surreal at that point.”

Celeste Russell, anther Honolulu resident told a local news publication Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “There was a red light and people were beeping their horns for people to go through it, instead of stopping, because obviously, they wanted to get home themselves. So it was bad.”

United Airlines cleared its lobby at Honolulu airport and sent passengers downstairs to the baggage claim area, according to the advertiser, and workers at Pearl Harbour were scrambling to get off the base.

There is a three-step for sending out such alerts. The process is triggered by a message communicated through a special line by the US Pacific Command. The Hawaii EMA, which receives it, uses a checklist of protocols to verify it and then an alert is sent out manually.

The Saturday alert was sent by mistake but it might have tapped right into worries and concerns already felt in the state because of the intensifying rhetoric between the US and North Korea, with Pyongyang successfully testing a ballistic missile that US experts have acknowledged can reach any part of the American mainland.

Gabbard accused Trump of “posturing” and not taking nuclear threats from North Korea seriously and urged to begin direct talks with Pyongyang without preconditions.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • A Test tubes labelled ‘Monkeypox virus positive’ is seen in this illustration taken on May 23. (REUTERS)

    Canada confirms 15 cases of monkeypox

    Canadian health authorities have confirmed 15 cases of monkeypox in the country, and with more samples arriving for laboratory tests, that number is likely to rise. On Tuesday, Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos said, in a statement, that the Public Health Agency of Canada has confirmed 10 more cases of monkeypox in the province of Quebec, bringing the total cases in Canada to 15.

  • Vigil for the victims of a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.

    Texas governor faces backlash for tweet urging residents to buy more guns

    Texas Governor Greg Abbott is facing backlash on social media over his seven-year-old tweet in which he had urged the residents to buy more new guns. In October 2015, the Republican leader said he was “embarrassed” by the fact that Texas was lagging behind California in new gun purchases, urging residents to “pick up the pace.”

  • Monkeypox, a close relative of the smallpox virus, is a rare disease classified as a High Consequence Infectious Disease (HCID) by the UK Health Security Agency.

    Canada reports 10 new Monkeypox cases | Latest updates

    Canada has identified 10 new cases of monkeypox - a disease endemic to forested parts of central and western Africa - bringing total infections in the country to 15. The new cases of monkeypox were detected in Quebec. Health minister Jean-Yves Duclos said samples were being analysed and cautioned, "We expect more cases to be confirmed in the coming days." The majority of cases this year have been reported in Europe.

  • A Victoria International Airport signage, in British Columbia, Canada. (Credit: Victoria International Airport)

    Canada: Airport in British Columbia closed briefly after suspicious bag found

    The international airport in the city of Victoria, the capital of the Canadian province of British Columbia, was closed to commercial aircraft on Tuesday after a suspicious bag was brought in by a passenger. The airport was shut down on Tuesday afternoon. It reopened late on Tuesday night, about seven hours later, after what was described as a “security incident” was “resolved” according to a tweet from the Victoria Airport Authority.

  • People mourn outside of the SSGT Willie de Leon Civic Center following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

    Shot grandmother, hinted ‘kids should watch out’ | How Texas shooting unfolded

    An 18-year-old gunman, identified as Salvador Ramos, was behind the deadliest school shooting in the United States in nearly a decade, killing at least 19 children. The gruesome killing took place at a Texas elementary school in the heavily Latino town of Uvalde. Law enforcement officials said that Ramos was a resident of the community about 135 kilometres west of San Antonio, reported news agencies. Law enforcement officials said he acted alone.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Wednesday, May 25, 2022