Abercrombie: In wake of missile alert mistake, governor was 'AWOL'

Abercrombie: In wake of missile alert mistake, governor was 'AWOL'
Updated: Jan. 15, 2018 at 6:17 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Former Gov. Neil Abercrombie blasted the Ige administration for taking too long to issue the all-clear signal to Saturday's missile alert mistake.

"In this instance, the leader was AWOL. In this instance, the leader completely dropped the ball. In this instance, the leader was apparently frozen in place," said Abercrombie.

It took the administration 38 minutes to correct the emergency alert, which stated that a "ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii," traumatizing thousands of isle residents and tourists.

State emergency officials said additional time was needed to send the all clear because they needed to coordinate that response with federal officials on the mainland.

"It amazed me when I heard this. Oh well we couldn't do that because we had to check with somebody on the mainland on Saturday afternoon if it was okay to tell them that people that they're probably not going to die," said Abercrombie.

Ige said previously that there is no automated way to send out a false alarm cancellation, which is why it took longer to notify people.

But Abercrombie said the governor and his staff should have directly alerted the media about the miscue immediately so that they could report to the public on the airwaves that it was a false alarm.

(Hawaii News Now reported Saturday's false alarm a minute before the missile alert was officially canceled by confirming the false alarm with police officials.)

Abercrombie said that back in 2011 when the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, killing thousands, his civil defense and communications teams immediately contacted local television and radio stations and newspapers about a possible tsunami threat.

"The implication is that there was nothing in place that would have allowed the governor to instantly communicate to the public through the media and that simply is not true," he said.

"First and foremost, when you're an executive, and you're in authority, you act on behalf of the safety and welfare of the people and you do that by taking control and taking command and that's what you're elected to do."

Political experts said Gov. Ige's handling of the missile alert mistake could place a heavy toll on his re-election efforts.

University of Hawaii Political Science Professor Colin Moore said Ige's opponent -- U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa -- has already attacked the governor on his leadership style, making Saturday's missile alert crisis all the more damaging.

"I think the impact is people are going to be much less willing to vote for Gov. Ige. His support has never been particularly deep," said Moore.

"This is an enormous catastrophe and it's one where people will look at Colleen Hanabusa well that's someone who would have made a different decisions."

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