An emergency alert stating Hawaii was at imminent risk of a ballistic missile attack caused confusion and panic Saturday, at a time of escalating nuclear tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.
Multiple users on Twitter at about 1:10 p.m. ET posted screenshots of an alert message that read: BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
However, the alert was false, according to multiple officials. President Donald Trump has been briefed on the situation, according to the White House.
U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement that it “has detected no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii,” adding that the state will send out a correction later.
“NO missile threat to Hawaii,” the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency tweeted.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said the alert was a “false alarm based on human error,” a mistake he said that was “totally inexcusable.”
“There is nothing more important to Hawaii than professionalizing and fool-proofing this process,” he added.
Democratic Sen. Maize Hirono added: “At a time of heightened tensions, we need to make sure all information released to the community is accurate.”
Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, on Saturday afternoon told MSNBC that Hawaiin families were forced to rush to their basements and call loved ones, believing that they had just 15 minutes before an attack. Gabbard, who is not currently in Hawaii, added: “So this is stark reality that Hawaii faces now of what a potential nuclear strike on Hawaii would be where do people go.”
Sara Donchey, a news anchor for a Houston TV station, wrote on Twitter: “I’m in Honolulu, #Hawaii and my family is on the North Shore. … They were hiding in the garage. My mom and sister were crying. It was a false alarm, but betting a lot of people are shaken.”
President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have engaged in a series of personal insults as tensions on the peninsula heighten amid ongoing nuclear and ballistic missile testing by the secretive regime, and increasingly harsh U.S. rhetoric.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters said in a statement: “The President has been briefed on the state of Hawaii’s emergency management exercise. This was purely a state exercise.”
It was not clear whether President Donald Trump was aware of the situation at the time. The president was in Florida and spent the morning and early afternoon at his golf course.
According to White House pool reports, the president’s motorcade left Trump National Golf Course in West Palm Beach, Florida, at 1:38 p.m. The pool reporter said the press did not see Trump in person. Trump’s motorcade arrived at Trump’s nearby private club and residence, Mar-a-Lago, at 1:49 p.m.
Earlier, Trump’s motorcade had left Mar-a-Lago at 9:17 a.m., arriving at Trump International Golf Course at 9:26 a.m.