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Hawaii missile alert: False alarm sparks panic in US state

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Hawaii missile
The message Hawaiians saw on their phones. (PC- Twitter)

Washington, Jan 14: An incoming missile alert plunged residents of Hawaii in the US into panic before it was declared a false alarm.

Mobile phone users on Saturday received a message saying: “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”

State Governor David Ige apologised and said it was caused by an employee pressing the wrong button, BBC reported.

The US government announced there would be a full investigation.

An alert system is in place because of the potential proximity of Hawaii to North Korean missiles.

In December, the state tested its nuclear warning siren for the first time since the end of the Cold War.

The false warning message was sent to people’s mobile devices, and was also broadcast on television and radio stations.

It was corrected by email but there was no follow-up mobile text for 38 minutes, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports.

Governor Ige said human error during one of the thrice-daily shift changes at the the state’s Emergency Management Agency (EMA) was to blame for the false alert.

“It was a procedure that occurs at the change of shift where they go through to make sure that the system, that it’s working. And an employee pushed the wrong button,” he explained.

“It was an inadvertent mistake,” said EMA administrator Vern Miyagi. “The change of shift is about three people. That should have been caught… it should not have happened.”

Television and radio broadcasts across the state were interrupted with a recorded emergency message instructing people to stay indoors.

“If you are outdoors seek immediate shelter in a building. Remain indoors well away from windows. If you are driving pull safely to the side of the road and seek shelter in a building while laying on the floor. We’ll announce when the threat has ended. This is not a drill!”

People in the US state have been sharing stories of momentary frenzy and the panic-stricken messages they exchanged with loved ones after they received the alert.

Videos posted on social media appeared to show students at the University of Hawaii running for shelter after the missile threat was issued.

Matt Lopresti, a member of the Hawaiian House of Representatives, was at home when he received the alert on his mobile phone.

“We got our children, grabbed our emergency supplies, put them in our most enclosed room in our house which is our bathroom,” he told local broadcaster KGMB.

“There’s not much else you can do in that situation. You know, we did what we could… and I am very angry right now because it shouldn’t be this easy to make such a big mistake.”

Golfers competing at the US PGA Hawaii Open in Honolulu were also thrown into alarm, with US player Talor Gooch tweeting that “birdies didn’t seem too important for a few minutes”.

IANS

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Pakistan’s economy shows positive indicators: PM’s Office

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Imran Khan Pakistan PM

Islamabad, Feb 28 : Pakistan’s economic indicators are seeing a constant improvement due to efforts made by the current government to overcome the serious economic challenges, the Prime Minister’s Office said on Friday.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, chairing a meeting of his economic team, expressed satisfaction over the improvement in all sectors, adding that his government is making efforts to bring a trickle-down effect of the improving economy on general public and in this regard steps are being taken to provide relief to low income and salaried class of the country, Xinhua reported.

He also directed the economic team to keep the public updated about the positive indicators of the economy in a bid to win the confidence of the local businessman to invest in the country.

Earlier this month, the prime minister approved subsidy of Pakistani Rs 10 billion ($65 million) on five essential food items for controlling rampant inflation in the country.

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Iranian vice president tests positive for coronavirus

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Tehran, Feb 28 Iran’s Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Masoumeh Ebtekar has tested positive for the coronavirus, an official said on Thursday.

Ebtekar’s adviser Fariba Ibtihaj said the vice president tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, Iran’s official IRNA news agency  reported.

“Everyone in the vice president’s team was also tested and the results will be available on Saturday,” she said.

Ebtekar is not the first high-ranking Iranian official to contract the virus.

Ebtekar, joins the deputy health minister, the head of the national security commission and a reformist MP who have been infected with the virus, reports Efe news.

She tested positive on Thursday after showing symptoms the previous day during a cabinet meeting, according to state TV.

The politician is one of the most recognizable in the Islamic Republic and previously held the position of environment minister.

Iran has reported 26 deaths from the deadly disease and 245 cases total with a dramatic surge of 106 new infections registered on Thursday, the Health Ministry said.

Tehran authorities have decided to close down schools and universities in the country to curb the spread of the disease.

Friday prayers in the capital have also been cancelled.

Amid the spread of the virus, neighbouring countries have closed their land borders with Iran and most airlines have suspended their flights or imposed restrictions on air travel to the country.

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COVID-19 cases in South Korea reach 2,022, 13 deaths

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Seoul, Feb 28 The number of coronavirus cases in South Korea increased to 2,022 on Friday, with a total of 13 fatalities as the nation aggressively counters the fast-spreading virus with massive testing, particularly for 210,000 followers of a religious sect at the centre of the epidemic.

The 256 new cases brought the nation’s total infections to 2,022, the Yonhap News Agency quoted the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) as saying.

Only two days ago, the number of infections exceeded 1,000.

More than half of newly confirmed cases were linked to a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the southeastern city of Daegu, 300 km southeast of Seoul.

Of the 256 new cases, 182 are in Daegu, and 49 are in the neighbouring North Gyeongsang Province.

Since raising the virus alert level to “red”, the highest level, on Sunday, health authorities have focused on halting the spread of the virus in Daegu, the epicentre of the virus outbreak in South Korea, and North Gyeongsang.

Experts said the number of confirmed cases is expected to jump in the coming days as health authorities have begun testing more than 210,000 members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus.

The government also ordered another 1,638 Shincheonji followers to self-isolate as they have shown symptoms, Yonhap News Agency said in its report.

Since the first coronavirus case — a Chinese woman from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak — on January 20, the pace of infections had not been alarming until February 18, when a 61-year-old woman who is tied to the Daegu religious sect tested positive for the virus.

Since then, the nation has seen an explosion in infections as it accelerated virus tests on potential cases.

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