The authorities confirmed on Saturday that there was no ballistic missile headed toward Hawaii minutes after an emergency alert was sent to cellphones there urging people to seek immediate shelter, leading to chaos and confusion.
“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII,” the alert said. “SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
A corrected alert was sent out 38 minutes later.
“There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii,” it read. “Repeat. False Alarm.”
The episode came at a time of heightened tensions with North Korea, which has said that it has successfully tested ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.
Representative Tulsi Gabbard, Democrat of Hawaii, tweeted shortly after the first alert was sent that she had confirmed that there was no missile.
Cmdr. David Benham, a spokesman for the United States Pacific Command, said in an emailed statement: “USPACOM has detected no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii. Earlier message was sent in error.”
The false alarm caused widespread panic on social media.
It was not immediately clear why the mistaken alert was sent. Senator Mazie K. Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii, emphasized the importance of making sure that “all information released to the community is accurate.”
She added, “We need to get to the bottom of what happened and make sure it never happens again.”
Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, tweeted a similar statement. “There is nothing more important to Hawaii than professionalizing and fool-proofing this process,” he said.
“What happened today is totally inexcusable,” he added. “The whole state was terrified.”