Islanders tell of frantic attempts to contact loved ones as they believed ballistic missile strike was imminent

Residents of Hawaii – informed for 38 minutes that they were under attack from a ballistic missile – were forced to make desperate decisions about how to spend what people believed might be their last moments alive.

As relief turned to fury after it was confirmed the warning sent to people’s mobiles phones by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency was an error, stories emerged of people trying to contact their loved ones, rushing to take shelter or trying to protect their children. People said they could not understand why it had taken so long to correct the mistake.

“My friend in Hawaii got the alert and had to quickly choose between which members of his family he would spend his last moments on Earth with because they were ALL too far apart from each other. He had to make the difficult choice of going immediately to his youngest children,” Gene Park wrote on Twitter.

Mr Park, who works for the Washington Post and lives in the nation’s capital, shared a post from his friend which read: “Right now, I’m in tears, pulled over on Bishop Street. Just five minutes before warning, I dropped my oldest at the airport and drove to Nimitz Zippys. There I found out about the threat and had to decide whether to shelter there, drive to my two younger children at home, go back to the airport or go to be with my wife at work.”

Video recorded from the University of Hawaii showed crowds of people running in panic after the warning was sent out early on Saturday morning.

Governor David Ige, said on CNN that the warning had been sent in error during a change in shift. He said an investigation was underway.

“I was awakened by the alert like everyone else here in the state of Hawaii. It was unfortunate and regrettable. We will be looking at how we can improve the procedures so it doesn’t happen again.”

CNN journalist Jake Tapper wrote that he knew someone in Hawaii who had been “crying in closet texting goodbyes to loved ones, husband shielding their baby”. He added: “Sounds traumatic. Hang in there, folks.”

Sara Donchey, a journalist from Texas, posted that she was in Hawaii when she also got the warning.

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