An emergency alert sent mistakenly warning of an incoming ballistic missile sent Hawaii into panic on Saturday, with residents scrambling for shelter. The alert was corrected 39 minutes later and Hawaiin authorities said the message was sent after an employee hit the wrong button during a shift change drill that takes place three times a day, The New York Times reported.

“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL,” the bogus alert sent at 8.07 am to cellphones statewide read. The false alert comes amid escalating tensions between North Korea and the United States over Pyongyang’s development of ballistic nuclear weapons.

Though the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency tweeted that there was no threat about 10 minutes later, most people who are not on the social media platform continued to be panicked. About 40 minutes after the initial alert, an alert informing them of the false alarm was sent to the cellphones.

Hawaii Governor David Ige and Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Vern Miyagi apologised and vowed that the incident will not be repeated. White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters said it “was purely a state exercise”.

“I am sorry for the pain and confusion it caused. I, too, am extremely upset about this and am doing everything I can do to immediately improve our emergency management systems, procedures and staffing,” said Ige said.

The Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said that his agency planned to investigate the false warning, NBC reported.