A wave of panic rattles Hawaii after false missile alert

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 cellphones.

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

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 8 a.m. 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.

The state adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Joe Logan, said a written report would be prepared. State lawmakers announced they would hold a hearing next Friday. And Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said on social media the panel would launch an investigation.

The backlash from lawmakers was swift.

Hawaii House Speaker Scott Saiki said the system Hawaii residents have been told to rely on failed miserably.

“Clearly, government agencies are not prepared and lack the capacity to deal with emergency situations,” he said in a statement.

Hawaii U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz tweeted the false alarm was “totally inexcusable.”

“There needs to be tough and quick accountability and a fixed process,” he wrote.

“This false alert is detrimental to the integrity and trust of the emergency management system,” said state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim.

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 cellphones until about 40 minutes later.

Many people said they are resigned to the fact that there is little they can actually do if a missile was to be launched toward the remote island chain, especially with only about 15 minutes of warning time for a strike from North Korea.

Joseph Kira was home with his kids when the alert came. His wife was at the gym.

“My wife was going ballistic,” he said. “At that point, you just pray and find God, I guess.”

With the threat of missiles from North Korea on people’s…

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