What started as a beautiful day in the state of Hawaii turned into 38 minutes of chaos and confusion Saturday.
The ordeal started when the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency issued a warning to hundreds of thousands of cell phones that read: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
Humboldt resident Blaine Weyland was walking on a beach near his rented condominium when he was informed by another tourist.
“I just shrugged my shoulders and kind of thought it must be a fake,” Weyland told northeastNOW. “If there was a missile attack I thought there would be sirens going off and a little more panic.”
The cause of the alert turned out to be a mistake. Hawaiian officials admitted an employee sent the alert during a shift change after "pressing the wrong button."
Weyland said he returned to his condominium about five to 10 minutes after receiving the news. He said most people on the beach were “out of connection” but the condo-complex was more hectic.
Reports say the alert let people abandoning cars on highways and preparing to flee their homes.
“There was a lot of stuff going on in the news. I think there was confusion whether the alert was meant to happen as a test or a mistake,” Weyland said.
The confusion eventually came to an end, though it took nearly 40 minutes, when the emergency agency sent out a clarifying message explaining the initial alert was an error.
This extended period of time in suspense angered many residents and visitors of the island state. Weyland said clearing the issue seemed to take a little too long.
“I think that’s what got more people upset was the fact the second notice didn’t show up until about 30 minutes after the first one,” he said.
“It was definitely an interesting way to start the day."
Officials have since apologized repeatedly for the error, vowing to ensure it would never happen again. The alert comes at a time the island paradise is already jittery over the threat of nuclear-tipped missiles from North Korea.
Hawaii reintroduced Cold War-era warning siren tests again last month that drew international attention. But there were problems there, too.
Even though the state says nearly 93 per cent of the 386 sirens worked properly, 12 mistakenly played an ambulance siren. At the tourist mecca of Waikiki, the sirens were barely audible, prompting officials to add more sirens there and to reposition ones already in place.
-- with files from the Canadian Press
On Twitter: @ClarkStork
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