For 38 minutes in Hawaii on Saturday morning, terror reigned.
A dire warning appeared as an alert on people’s phones. It turned out the warning of an inbound ballistic missile was a false alarm, but before learning that, many braced for the worst.
Hospital patients were moved, children were ushered into storm drains for cover and many sent panicked messages to loved ones.
“My friend’s mom called her crying saying goodbye. My other friend was huddled downstairs with her toddlers. This is not ok,” wrote Kaniela Ing, a state legislator, on Twitter.
The emergency alert, which was sent to cellphones just before 8:10 a.m., said in all caps, “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”
The false alert was reportedly sent out when an employee pressed the wrong button.
“It was a procedure that occurs at the change of shifts, where they go through to make sure that the system is working, and an employee pushed the wrong button,” Gov. David Ige said, according to Pacific Business News.
Hawaiians have been told that they’ll have 20 minutes to seek shelter if a missile were launched from North Korea.
Sara Donchey, a reporter for an NBC affiliate in Texas, tweeted that she was in Honolulu during the incident. She slept through it, but she woke to panicked texts from relatives.
“Honey take shelter. I love you,” one said. And another, “IF YOURE SLEEPING WAKE UP AN CALL US IMMEDIATELY.”
The Chicago Tribune’s editorial board likened the incident to the 1938 radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds.” The Orson Welles story about a martian invasion was fictional, but it disturbed some listeners who thought it was real.
Hawaii U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono tweeted that in a “time of heightened tensions, we need to make sure all information released to the community is accurate.”
Thirty-eight minutes passed before people on the islands received a second alert calling the first message a false alarm. The state’s Emergency Management Agency tweeted 10 minutes after the initial alert that there was no threat.
Actor Jim Carrey tweeted he “woke up this morning in Hawaii with ten minutes to live. It was a false alarm, but a real psychic warning.”
He also blamed Donald Trump, writing the president has put strain on relations with North Korea.
Here are more reactions from the debacle.
Hawaii U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz tweeted the false alarm was “totally inexcusable.”
“There needs to be tough and quick accountability and a fixed process,” he wrote.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai also took to social media to announce the panel would launch an investigation.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.