Kiwis in Hawaii have described the terrifying moment residents received an alert on their phones warning of a ballistic missile threat that was accidentally sent out by Civil Defense
Scores of confused residents tweeted screenshots of the warnings after receiving them shortly after 8am local time.
The message, which was written all in block capitals, read: "BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII.
"SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL".
This is the full text of the emergency alert that was mistakenly issued for Hawaii. Again, NO missiles have been launched. pic.twitter.com/FLGSd4Er9V— Michael van Poppel (@mpoppel) January 13, 2018
The alert set off panic across the American state, with people evacuating to basements and many fearing they were about to die.
Takapuna teenager Emma Bullock, who is on holiday in Hawaii with her family of five, said she believed she would not live to see her 18th birthday tomorrow when the alert went out.
"I felt sick and woke up all the family before rushing and packing my bags. Outside, there were locals just going for walks - little did they know the imminent danger of a missile.
"Twitter eased our worries before a long waited 40 minutes when the official alert said it was a 'false alarm' . I turn 18 tomorrow and really thought I wasn't going to make it! Hopefully the civil defence can get their alerts right next time.
Kaye Bromley from Wellington told the Herald she woke up when her phone started humming.
"It was the emergency warning saying missile threat evacuate and not a drill.
"I grabbed passports and money and then my husband came in from the gym saying they had been told to evacuate. We grabbed the kids and followed staff instructions to shelter in the basement of the hotel.
"All good. Bit surreal. But I didn't observe any panic. Everyone on social media trying to find out what was going on. Only down there about 10 minutes and given all clear."
Dee Whitby from Havelock North was in Hilo when the alert was made.
"Announcements came over the hotel phone speakers saying we needed to stay in our rooms because of a missile threat and it was not a drill. Sirens were going. Really scary. Another announcement came over saying it was a mistake. Really horrible feeling."
Calls from frightened Hawaiian residents inundated Civil Defense immediately asking for more information or advice.
People who say they got through to the office were then told it was a mistake.
One woman called 911 in panic and said she was told by the operator that staff were performing a drill when "someone pushed the wrong buttons".
"Called 911...Operator said it's a drill of Civil Defense Emergency System but someone pushed the wrong buttons..
"No missile is headed toward the State of Hawaii REPEAT....NO MISSILE IS HEADED TOWARD THE STATE OF HAWAII."
Erroneous missile attack warning was also broadcast on TV stations across Hawaii. The cause of the false alert is not yet known. pic.twitter.com/UNFOcRFZX6— BNO News (@BNONews) January 13, 2018
Aucklander Dana Holbrook who is holidaying in Kauai told the Herald the incident was very scary.
"Terrifying especially when radio said missile headed to Kauai!"
Emily Moore, of Auckland, said on Facebook it was the "scariest moment of my life. That was not fun, everyone was in so much despair."
Anne Stokes, who studied at Wellington's Victoria University, said on Facebook her family was "all good".
"The kids did get a fright … hotel management were great in explaining the situation."
The Civil Defense phone lines were consistently busy on Saturday and the Department of Defense has not responses to questions on the matter.
Tulsi Gabbard, the Dem. Rep. for Hawaii, urgently tried to calm the hysteria.
"HAWAII - THIS IS A FALSE ALARM. THERE IS NO INCOMING MISSILE TO HAWAII. I HAVE CONFIRMED WITH OFFICIALS THERE IS NO INCOMING MISSILE," she wrote.
The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency also confirmed that it was a false alarm, tweeting: "NO missile threat to Hawaii."
Less than an hour after the mistake, lawmakers said they were determined to get to the bottom of how such a colossal error was made.
"There is no missile threat. It was a false alarm based on a human error. There is nothing more important to Hawai'i than professionalizing and fool-proofing this process."