False alert of missile threat to Hawaii sent by human error

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A screen capture from the Twitter account of U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard shows a missile warning for Hawaii, the United States. on January 13, 2018. (Xinhua)

An emergency text alert on Saturday warning residents in the U.S. state of Hawaii of an imminent ballistic missile threat was false alarm sent out due to human error, state officials said.

The U.S. military's Pacific Command and state authorities confirmed that there was no missile threat to Hawaii, which is a chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean, and home to the U.S. Pacific Command.

Hawaii Governor David Ige said in comments aired on CNN that "I was awakened by the alert like everyone else here in the state of Hawaii. It was unfortunate and regrettable."

Ige apologized for the incident, saying that someone at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. "pushed the wrong button" during a routine shift change.

Such shift changes occur three times a day every day of the year, he added.

"While I am thankful this morning's alert was a false alarm, the public must have confidence in our emergency alert system. I am working to get to the bottom of this so we can prevent an error of this type in the future." said Ige in a statement.

The alert, sent to mobile phones and also aired on television and radio, caused panic among Hawaiians and on social media platforms.

Sara Donchey, who said she was in Honolulu, Hawaii, tweeted that her family who were on the North Shore "were hiding in the garage. My mom and sister were crying."

"It was a false alarm, but betting a lot of people are shaken," she wrote.

The emergency text alert was sent to cellphones at about 8:07 a.m. local time (1807 GMT), reading in all caps that "Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill."

Video shows students at the University of Hawaii at Manoa running for cover and hiding in classrooms in wake of the emergency alert.

"First instinct was to jump out of bed and figure out what was going on. I got a bag and threw my water and some food in it," Luke Clements, a student, was quoted as saying by local media Hawaii News Now.

"We're coming down outside of Frear (Hall) and see people running past us. There were a group of people crying," said Clements.

Wu Qing, a Chinese scholar working in Hawaii, told Xinhua in a phone interview that she still felt frightened.

"I was still sleeping when I received message in the morning. Several of my friends also called me or informed me through Wechat after missile alert mistake," said Wu.

Many local residents had a sense of "surviving a disaster" and are thankful it was just an error, she added.

"I was scared to death. How can the emergency agency make a mistake like that?" wrote a student named Tian on Wechat Moment.

It took about 38 minutes for the initial alert to be retracted, according to media reports.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency corrected the alert, saying on Twitter: "NO missile threat to Hawaii."

"Hawaii -- this is a false alarm," U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard said on her Twitter account. "I have confirmed with officials there is no incoming missile."

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission announced that it was initiating a full probe into the incident. Enditem

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