A false alarm warning of a ballistic missile heading for Hawaii sent the islands into a panic yesterday, with people abandoning cars in a highway and preparing to flee their homes until officials said the cell phone alert was a mistake.
Hawaii officials apologised repeatedly and said the alert was sent when someone hit the wrong button during a shift change. They vowed it would never happen again.
"We made a mistake," said Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Vern Miyagi.
For nearly 40 minutes, it seemed like the world was about to end in Hawaii, an island paradise already jittery over the threat of nuclear-tipped missiles from North Korea.
The emergency alert, which was sent to cellphones statewide just before 8:10 a.m. (1710GMT) on Saturday, said: "BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL."
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 revised alert informing of the "false alarm" didn't reach cellphones until about 40 minutes later.