An emergency alert warning Hawaii of a ballistic missile threat Saturday was issued by mistake, authorities said afterwards.
“EMERGENCY ALERT,” read an alarm sent to cellphones across Hawaii shortly after 8 a.m. Saturday morning. “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
Officials clarified minutes later that the warning was sent in error, albeit not without briefly causing panic throughout the Pacific.
“There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii,” said a follow-up alert. “Repeat. False Alarm.”
About 38 minutes had passed between the initial warning and the “false alarm” alert, however, raising concerns among Hawaiians demanding an explanation for the delay.
“Quite bluntly, it took far too long for that message to get out to the people of Hawaii,” Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii Democrat, told MSNBC. “As soon as I found out there was no real threat coming in, immediately I used every avenue possible to get the word out.”
“You can only imagine what kicked in,” Ms. Gabbard told CNN. “This is a real threat facing Hawaii, so people got this message on their phones and they thought, 15 minutes, we have 15 minutes before me and my family could be dead.”
“This is the reality that people in Hawaii are facing: that there is a nuclear threat coming from North Korea that could come at any time,” she said.
The Department of Defense said the military “has detected no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii,” and Ms. Gabbard said she was told that the initial warning was sent by mistake.
“At a time of heightened tensions, we need to make sure all information released to the community is accurate. We need to get to the bottom of what happened and make sure it never happens again,” tweeted U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, Hawaii Democrat.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters said President Trump was briefed on the mistaken missile strike alert while spending the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago Club in West Palm Beach, Florida.
“The president has been briefed on the state of Hawaii’s emergency management exercise. This was purely a state exercise,” she said.
• S.A. Miller contributed to this report