A number of people along the U.S. East Coast received a tsunami warning on Tuesday, but authorities said there was no such threat and blamed the issue on a routine test that was mistakenly sent to mobile phones.
The incident happened at about 8:28 a.m. ET on Tuesday when people using third party mobile applications received an emergency alert, stating that a tsunami warning had been issued for their community, even though there had been no earthquake.
The National Weather Service (NWS) said it happened when one of its divisions, the National Tsunami Warning Center, issued a routine test message. The warning was then published by several third parties, including AccuWeather and a number of local news affiliates.
But in a statement, AccuWeather blamed the National Weather Service for causing the mistake, saying that the NWS had coded the test message as a real tsunami warning. It added that warnings from the National Weather Service are automatically processed and then delivered to users.
“The responsibility is on the NWS to properly and consistently code the messages, for only they know if the message is correct or not,” AccuWeather said in a statement, adding that the company had warned NWS more than 3 years ago about the risk of miscoding.
Tuesday’s tsunami alert caused some confusion but it quickly became apparent that it was a mistake. Some users said they clicked on the warning and were shown a message that clearly stated that it was a test to determine transmission times for tsunami information.
To prevent further confusion, authorities issued an alert through the Emergency Alert System (EAS). “Some users may have received notifications that a tsunami warning is in effect for their area. There are no tsunami warnings in effect at the current time,” the warning said.
The mistake comes just weeks after an employee mistakenly triggered a missile attack warning in the U.S. state of Hawaii, causing widespread panic as people sought shelter. It took 39 minutes to cancel the alert, which was sent to cell phones as well as radio and TV stations.
Days later, Japanese broadcaster NHK mistakenly issued a warning that told people to seek shelter, claiming that North Korea was believed to have launched a missile. The alert, which caused confusion but no panic, was retracted a short time later.
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