January 14, 2018 5:57 pm JST

Hawaii issues ballistic missile warning by mistake

Hawaii Gov. David Ige, right, addressed the media Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, during a press conference following the false alarm issued of a missile launch on Hawaii. © AP

HONOLULU (Kyodo) -- Hawaii's Emergency Management Agency mistakenly sent an alert about an incoming ballistic missile Saturday to residents across the state where a Cold War attack warning system has been brought back in the wake of the growing North Korean missile threat.

The alert, caused by a human error, went out to local media and mobile phones around 8:10 a.m. The emergency notification read, "Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill."

The agency said on Twitter about 10 minutes later that there was no missile threat, while Hawaii Gov. David Ige said on television that the warning was a mistake made during a standard procedure during an employee shift change.

President Donald Trump, currently in Florida, has been briefed on the false alert, the White House said.

The false alarm sparked temporary panic among locals with some students at the University of Hawaii running for shelters.

Steve Wheatcroft, a professional golfer playing at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu tweeted, "So...this can't be good. Everyone is freaking out in the hotel," with a screenshot from his smartphone showing the emergency alert.

Mototaka Hirose, a 54-year-old Japanese tourist from Osaka, heard an announcement from a flight attendant that the missile alarm message was false shortly before touching down at Honolulu airport.

"I wondered what it is about and then was surprised to realize that it was a false alarm about a missile from North Korea."

Japanese residents in the U.S. island state reacted more calmly. An official at the Japanese consulate general in Honolulu told Kyodo News, "I thought it couldn't be right as there were no reports (about North Korean missiles) in Japan."

Chihiro Kitagawa, a 46-year-old Honolulu resident, also said, "I thought it wasn't real. I didn't hear the (emergency) siren so I didn't believe it."

Hawaii began conducting a monthly test of outdoor emergency sirens in December after North Korea stepped up its missile and nuclear programs, test-firing ballistic missiles over Japan into the Pacific last year.

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