Hawaii ballistic missile threat was false alarm, officials

Washington: The US military's Pacific Command said on Saturday there was no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii after an official message was mistakenly sent to Hawaii residents' mobile phones warning them of an imminent attack.

The alerts to Hawaii cellphone users were issued at about 8.07am local time, saying "BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL." The message also appeared on Hawaii television stations, according to news reports. The alert was officially cancelled about 38 minutes later.

A spokesman for the military command said the warning message had been sent accidentally. 

David Ige, the governor of Hawaii, said in a statement: "The public must have confidence in our emergency alert system. I am working to get to the bottom of this so we can prevent an error of this type in the future."

Mr Ige told reporters the mistake was the result of human error and someone at the state emergency management agency pushed the "wrong button" during a shift change, CNN reported.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said it was launching a "full investigation" into the mishap, which sent panic throughout Hawaii. 

The incident happened amid high international tensions over North Korea's development of a ballistic nuclear weapon.

North Korean President Kim Jong-un has threatened to unleash his country's growing missile weapon capability against US states or the US territory of Guam, prompting President Donald Trump to threaten tough actions against Pyongyang.

As the event unfolded, Mr Trump was wrapping up a round of golf at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida.

He returned to his resort, Mar-a-Lago, where the White House said he was briefed on the situation.

A spokeswoman for US Representative Tulsi Gabbard said Ms Gabbard checked with the state agency that issued the alert and was told it was sent in error.


The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency's Twitter account also said "NO missile threat to Hawaii."

Wireless carriers do not prepare or write the alerts but they run simultaneously on all networks.

The FCC has jurisdiction over the emergency alert system. Earlier this week, the FCC said it would vote at its January meeting to enhance the effectiveness of wireless emergency alerts, which have been in place since 2012.

Ajit Pai, the commission's chairman, is proposing that providers deliver alerts "with no more overshoot than one-tenth of a mile" to allow Americans to "take more seriously the alerts they receive on their mobile devices".

Hawaii, a chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean, has a population of about 1.4 million people, according to the US Census Bureau, and is home to the US Pacific Command, the Navy's Pacific Fleet and other elements of the American military.

In November, Hawaii said it would resume monthly statewide testing of Cold War-era nuclear attack warning sirens for the first time in at least a quarter of a century, in preparation for a possible missile strike from North Korea, state officials said at the time.

US Senator Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, said on Twitter, "Today's alert was a false alarm. At a time of heightened tensions, we need to make sure all information released to the community is accurate. We need to get to the bottom of what happened and make sure it never happens again."