People in Hawaii have shared harrowing accounts after receiving a false ballistic missile threat alert on Saturday.
Residents woke up to an incorrect message sent to their mobile phones warning that an attack on the North Pacific US state was imminent.
But about 30 minutes later the US military’s Pacific Command said it “detected no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii” and that the message warning had been sent in error.
The message was sent by text at 8:07am local time (18:07 GMT) and it took around 38 minutes for officials to send a follow-up text correcting the alert.
During that time, many shared goodbyes and messages of love to their friends and family, believing an attack was imminent.
“It was surreal, actually,” Chea Paet, 35, told HuffPost. Paet, who lives in the Portlock neighborhood of Honolulu, was unloading his boat at the front of his house when his roommate showed him the alert.
“I immediately ran into the house to wake up my fiancée and told her we needed to get to the guest room or pool in case we saw the blast,” he said, adding that he told his fiancée to text her parents “goodbye in case we didn’t make it.”
“We stood around like it wasn’t actually happening,” said Paet. “I told her I loved her and that this could be the end.”
Destinee Solis, 24, was in tears as she packed diapers and clothes, and placed her children into the closet. She and her husband live in the town of Wahiawa, a short drive from the U.S. Army’s Schofield Barracks where her husband, who is on an Army Special Reaction Team, is stationed.
“Once I finished, I went in and sat with my kids, hugged them tightly, closed my eyes and just hoped we would make it,” Solis told HuffPost. “My husband waited outside the closet door. At one moment, I went out to hug him and basically say our goodbyes.”
Solis said her husband called his leaders in the Army to find out more about the situation. As they waited, she said she feared for her and her family’s life.
“I didn’t want my kids to see the fear we felt waiting for [the missile] to hit,” Solis said. “These moments were the scariest, darkest moments of my life. I was mentally preparing myself to lose my kids, my life.”
Others who were in Hawaii or have loved ones currently in the US state shared their harrowing ordeals on social media...
The incident occurred amid high international tensions over North Korea’s development of a ballistic nuclear weapon.
Kim Jong-un has threatened to unleash his country’s growing missile weapon capability against the US territory of Guam or US states, prompting Donald Trump to threaten tough actions against Pyongyang.
A spokeswoman for US Representative Tulsi Gabbard said she 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.”
Hawaii has a population of about 1.4 million people, according to the US Census Bureau, and is home to the U.S. 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, Reuters reports.