Wednesday 15 August 2018

Probe under way into missile alert error that terrified Hawaii

An electronic sign reads 'There is no threat' in Oahu, Hawaii, after the false alert Photo: Reuters
An electronic sign reads 'There is no threat' in Oahu, Hawaii, after the false alert Photo: Reuters

Caleb Jones and  Audrey McAvoy Honolulu

The second recent blunder in Hawaii's planning for a possible North Korean nuclear attack left islanders shaken after an emergency alert warning of an imminent strike sounded on hundreds of thousands of mobile phones.

For nearly 40 minutes people waited. Then came the second mobile alert: someone hit the wrong button, there was no missile.

A screen grab from a Twitter account of the message sent out Photos: Reuters
A screen grab from a Twitter account of the message sent out Photos: Reuters

Some people abandoned cars on the highway and others gathered in the interiors of their homes to wait for what seemed like the inevitable, a blast that would cause widespread death and destruction.

The message sent statewide just after 8am on Saturday read: "Ballistic Missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill."

The Hawaii Emergency ­Management Agency's administrator, Vern Miyagi, said he took responsibility for the mistake.

He said officials would study the error to make sure it doesn't happen again. State lawmakers said they would hold a hearing on Friday, while the Federal Communications Commission is to launch an investigation.

Hawaii House Speaker Scott Saiki said the system residents have been told to rely on failed miserably, while Hawaii US Senator Brian Schatz tweeted the false alarm was "totally inexcusable".

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency tweeted there was no threat about 10 minutes after the initial alert, but that didn't reach people who aren't on the social ­media platform.

A mobile alert informing of the false alarm didn't reach mobile phones until about 40 minutes later.

Hawaii officials apologised and said the alert was sent when someone hit the live alert button instead of a test button during a shift change.

The state also reintroduced the Cold War-era warning siren tests last month, but 12 of the 386 sirens mistakenly played an ambulance siren.

Irish Independent

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