HONOLULU — A push alert that warned of an incoming ballistic missile to Hawaii and sent residents into a full-blown panic Saturday was a mistake, state emergency officials said.
The emergency alert, which was sent to cellphones, said in all caps, “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”
Hawaii Emergency Management Agency spokesman Richard Repoza said it was a false alarm and the agency is trying to determine what happened.
The alert caused a tizzy on the island and across social media.
HAWAII – THIS IS A FALSE ALARM. THERE IS NO INCOMING MISSILE TO HAWAII. I HAVE CONFIRMED WITH OFFICIALS THERE IS NO INCOMING MISSILE. pic.twitter.com/DxfTXIDOQs
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) January 13, 2018
Jamie Malapit, owner of a Honolulu hair salon, texted his clients that he was canceling their appointments and was closing his shop for the day. He said he was still in bed when the phone started going off “like crazy.” He thought it was a tsunami warning at first.
“I woke up and saw missile warning and thought no way. I thought, ‘No, this is not happening today,'” Malapit said.
He was still “a little freaked out” and feeling paranoid even after hearing it was a false alarm.
“I went from panic to semi panic and ‘are we sure?'” he said.
US military spokesman David Benham said the US Pacific Command “has detected no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii. Earlier message was sent in error,” adding that the US state would “send out a correction message as soon as possible.”
The warning came across the Emergency Alert System, which authorities nationwide use to deliver vital emergency information to the public.
It caused panic across the US island chain, following months of soaring tensions between Washington and Pyongyang over North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile program.
The North has been working towards developing a missile that can deliver an atomic warhead to US territory, heightening fears of potential attack.