Canadians who received emergency alerts on their cellphones warning of an impending missile strike that turned out to be a false alarm say they were terrified.
“It was just like sudden panic and I realized I had no idea what to do in this kind of emergency,” Edmonton business owner Stephanie Patel, told CTV News Channel later Saturday. “So we just kind of stood there and I was shaking.”
Patel, who was visiting the Pacific archipelago with her husband, says her first thought was to call her mother in Canada, so she picked up the phone.
“I just started crying,” Patel said, still shaken from the ordeal. “My mom was praying for me, and I just said, ‘this is it -- there’s a missile coming.’”
“Then somebody in the hallway said ‘I’ve confirmed reports it’s 11 minutes away,’” she added.
Patel said that she truly thought she was going to die until finding out via Twitter about 20 minutes later that it was a false alarm.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been that scared before,” she added. “We’re leaving today and I was just like, ‘I can’t wait to get home to Edmonton.’”
The alert, which was sent just before 8:10 a.m., said: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” It took just under 40 minutes before messages were sent out declaring the alert a “False Alarm.”
Toronto chef Rodney Bowers is currently visiting Hawaii with friends.
“I’ve never heard a noise like that on my phone before,” he said of the emergency alert when reached by CTV News Channel later Saturday. “It was pretty over-the-top.”
Bowers, who was on his way to the beach, gathered with his friends to draft a plan. They soon learned that there were no bomb shelters in their area but were heartened to recall seeing a U.S. military installation while on a hike in a nearby canyon.
“We might be in a good spot because the anti-missile site is just down the road,” Bowers remembered telling his friends.
Still, Bowers was “scared” until finding out via social media a half-hour later that it was a false alarm, he said.
Bowers said he has no ill feelings towards those responsible for the initial alert.
“It’s all good. We make mistakes,” he said. “We’re here to live another day and I’m going to hit the beach so no bad feelings.”
With files from CTV News Channel and The Associated Press