Panic ensues as missile threat false alarm spreads fear in residents, visitors

A false alarm regarding a ballistic missile threat sent people into a panic Saturday morning.

There was no actual threat to Hawaii.

But the confusion threw the University of Hawaii at Manoa into chaos.

Joe Walker shared video of crowds of people running to safety.

“They were kind of losing it. I saw a lot of families with babies and people trying to get to cover,” he said. “We found a family who had keys to the library, so we were able to get in to safety there, but it was definitely a stressful situation.”

Emily Dungate was in her dorm room when she heard the alert, and a friend told her they needed to go downstairs.

“I was running too. I was talking to my father on the phone. He was trying to stay updated with the news. No one knew what was going on. It was like chickens at that point. No one knew what was going on. There was no information, so we were freaking out. Honestly, I can just describe it as terrifying. It was absolutely terrifying. The campus was an absolute panic.”

“You can see the panic in everyone’s eyes. They were just trying to find the safest place to go, and find shelter and be safe,” said student Nick Keturich.

Dylan Salanoa was conducting a surfing class in Waikiki when it happened.

“Everybody got freaked out and they just dug out on me, left me by myself. It was little bit of a panic,” he said. “Everybody was chilling at first. Next thing you know, everybody’s phone went off. Chaos. Booked it. They left the beach. My workers left me. They’re shaking they hands like oh, it was so scary.It was really scary to try to stay calm.”

“All of a sudden, we hear people shouting on the balconies, wondering what’s going on,” said Monica Moberg, who is visiting from Vancouver, B.C. “I’m texting my daughter, saying, ‘I love you if I die.’ The freakiest thing that ever happened to me my whole life. I never want this to happen again. We have got to get some sort of agreement with Korea so this never happens again.”

Leihala Duterte was about to go surfing in Waikiki when she got the alert.

“There was no one on the streets after a couple minutes. They left, ran into buildings and stuff,” she said. After learning it was a false alarm, “You’re like, ‘Oh, thank God.’ You’re calling your parents, telling them you love them.”

Some were unsure what to do. Others immediately called loved ones.

Honolulu resident Alvin Freitas said he “started talking to my other hotel people, saw people scrambling all over, called my managers. I went into a hotel and sat, waited for a bit. A lot of people were crying. It scared a whole lot of people in Hawaii.”

When it turned out to be a false alarm, people were furious.

“You can’t do that to a state like Hawaii, you know?” Freitas said. “Where are we going to go? What are we going to do? You just had a whole lot of people freak out in like 20 minutes.”

While state officials swear this mistake will never happen again, visitors say the debacle has them questioning the state’s reputation.

“It made me think maybe Hawaii emergency services got hacked or is pretty incompetent. It’s probably not going to be good for tourism in the state,” said San Diego resident Brett Wilson.

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