38 minutes in fear: False missile alarm in Hawaii

Honolulu (dpa) – A false missile alarm terrified the US state of Hawaii in the Pacific on Saturday. The state’s EMA has sent text messages warning of a missile approaching Hawaii.

“This is not an exercise,” it said in the message, which was shown on Saturday morning (local time) as a treadmill in the current TV program. The population should seek protection immediately.

The agency corrected its own message 13 minutes later via social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, and another 25 minutes later via SMS. “No missile threat to Hawaii,” said the barren embassy. The US armed forces also said they had no signs of a missile threat.

Until Sunday, it remained unclear how many people in Hawaii were affected by the false warning. In the USA, however, public warnings usually go directly to all cell phones that are logged in to the system via the cell phone networks involved in the system – including those from visitors.

An EMA spokesman said someone wrongly triggered the chain of information that led to the cell phone warning. It was “pressed the wrong button,” it said. The employee is said to have noticed his mistake quickly when his own cell phone spit out the warning message. The spokesman did not want to give any information about possible consequences for the man.

According to experts, Hawaii is within range of missiles from North Korea. Despite UN bans, the country has tested numerous rockets and nuclear weapons. At the end of November, North Korea fired another ICBM for testing purposes. A short time later, the leadership said that the country could now attack the entire US mainland with nuclear warheads. U.S. physicist David Wright estimates that a North Korean missile could hit Hawaii approximately 37 minutes after launch.

US President Donald Trump and the internationally isolated leadership in Pyongyang under head of state Kim Jong Un delivered a rhetorical exchange of blows in 2017 that triggered the worst fears internationally. Trump has threatened violence several times if North Korea continues to threaten the United States. The Pyongyang leadership said it had nuclear weapons developed only for defense.

According to the White House, the president was informed of the false alarm in Hawaii – with the indication that it was a local exercise. There was also a false missile alarm last August on the Pacific island of Guam, a US outskirts. Guam is also within North Korea’s reach.

According to official figures, a good 1.5 million people live in the state of Hawaii. In addition, tens of thousands of tourists stay on the islands at all times – in January 2017, according to the local tourism authority, more than 750,000 people traveled to Hawaii.

Governor David Ige apologized for the mistake. “That shouldn’t have happened,” he said at a press conference. Work is underway to prevent this from happening again. Ige – unlike Republican Trump, a member of the Democratic Party – tweeted: “We also have to do everything we can to promote peace and de-escalation with North Korea.”

The authorities came under pressure because apparently many people were frightened unnecessarily. The Federal Civil Protection Agency FEMA initiated an investigation. The German honorary consul in Hawaii, Dennis Salle, made one lesson clear from the mistake: “In an emergency, the majority of the population would have been completely unprotected.”

Hawaii Congressman Tulsi Gabbard said many people were terrified. «People got the message and thought: 15 minutes. We have 15 minutes, then we and our families can be dead. » The authorities in Hawaii had calculated this period between alarming and impact in an information letter in October 2017.

The Berlin author Sabine Landgraber experienced the incident in Hawaii – and was “quite shocked” by the confusing news. “I read the message and thought it was a joke,” she told the German Press Agency on Sunday. The media had recommended that you entrench yourself in the house or lie on the floor when you were driving. “On the other hand, I still felt that none of this could be.” She was taken aback that no sirens had come on. The siren system is triggered separately and was not affected by the error.

The world’s top golf professionals attending a PGA tournament in Hawaii were also alarmed by the false alarm. US professional J.J. Spaun entrenched himself in the basement of his hotel, as he wrote on Twitter. And his compatriot John Peterson tweeted: «With my wife, baby and parents-in-law under mattresses in the hotel bathtub. Dear God, please don’t let the missile alarm be real ». After the all-clear, Peterson added his tweet: “Oh man, how can you just push the wrong button”.

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