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False Alarm Scares Hawaii; El Salvadorians May Have to Return. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired January 14, 2018 - 03:00   ET


CYRIL VANIER, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: A false alarm warns residents of Hawaii of a ballistic missile headed their way. How did this happen? You might not believe the answer. Plus, families from El Salvador forced to think about a return to a country they no longer know after more than a decade in the U.S. And an episode scandalously spotlighting the gender pay gap gets a Hollywood ending.

Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier in Atlanta. CNN Newsroom starts right now.

An entire U.S. state thrown into sheer panic, all because someone hit the wrong button. This is what people in Hawaii saw when they woke up Saturday morning. Their phones lit up first with this message on the left, warning of a ballistic missile headed straight at them. It took more than a half hour before the correction on the right went out saying that no missiles were actually on the way. False alarm.

By the way, that's longer than it takes for a potential missile fired from, say, the Korean peninsula to actually hit Hawaii. During that time, people ran for shelter. These are students at the University of Hawaii, residents huddled in parking garages, in hotels, police stations, basements, even concrete bunkers. Some were calling loved ones to say their final good-byes.

The initial missile alert came from the official state emergency center, but it was in fact a human error, an employee hitting the wrong computer button during a shift change. Hawaii's governor is apologizing to the people of his state. Here's more from Mileka Lincoln, our CNN affiliate KHNL in Honolulu, Hawaii.

DAVID IGE, HAWAII GOVERNOR: What happened today is totally unacceptable. And many in our community was deeply affected by this. And I'm sorry for that pain and confusion that anyone might have experienced.

MILEKA LINCOLN, REPORTER, KHNL: A somber apology from the governor as state officials admitted human error was to blame for the false ballistic missile threat alert and the nearly 40 minutes it took for a correction to be issued.

IGE: There was no automated way to send a false alarm cancelation. We had to initiate a manual process. And that was why it took a while to notify everyone.

LINCOLN: The mistake happened during a routine test during a shift change at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency in Diamond Head. Officials confirm an employee erroneously sent the warning, which is disseminated to mobile devices across the state by initially clicking the wrong option during the test, then confirming a subsequent prompt that distributed the mass alert.

VERN MIYAGI, ADMINISTRATOR, HAWAII EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: There is a screen that says, "Are you sure you want to do this?" That's already in place. Now we had one person, human error, and that thing was pushed anyway.

LINCOLN: The employee reportedly didn't realize his mistake until he received the emergency alert on his own device. Officials wouldn't say if the employee will be suspended or relieved of his duties, though they did confirm everyone will receive counseling and retraining. As an immediate safeguard to prevent another false alarm, the test the state was conducting has been put on hold and a future alert will require two people.

MIYAGI: I apologize for this. This is my responsibility, my team. But please keep in mind that again, the threat is there. If this comes out, you're going to have only about 12 to 13 minutes of warning for an actual event. And please take this to heart.

LINCOLN: Officials say it's imperative that the public's takeaway from this mistake is that they do need to be prepared. The governor says if it had been a real threat, the state siren system would have been activated. They're now investigating reports that some sirens did sound near military bases.

IGE: The sirens should not have gone off. It was not part of this test.

LINCOLN: Officials are also looking into why some mobile carriers never received the mass warning alert that was mistakenly released.

IGE: We want the people to know that we are disappointed and angry that this happened. We do know that everyone on the island was affected in some way. We understand that. We are committed to providing the public with a good notification system.

VANIER: That was Mileka Lincoln of CNN affiliate KHNL reporting. An investigation is underway and a report on what exactly happened is expected in the coming weeks.

It was early in what looked to be a beautiful weekend morning when that missile alert lit up cell phones and TV screens. People all across Hawaii had just a few minutes to figure out what they were going to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We realized we have absolutely no idea of really what we're supposed to do. We were already in our house. So we didn't know what the procedures were.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I figured at that point there's nothing --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess that's it there. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. There is - yes. At that point, there was nothing I could have done. But had we been out somewhere, maybe get a better idea about shelter locations because I have no idea where any of them are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was like afraid, actually. You know, it's sort of like this is not a warning, take shelter. I was looking around thinking like -- like, where do we go? (Inaudible) Pearl Harbor, we didn't see any planes scrambling. So it's kind of like waiting through (ph) something else and called our family and friends (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At first, everyone just thought their phones were dinging in, and then they said this isn't a joke, this isn't a drill, we need to go. So people just started scurrying around, trying to get into bathrooms. I was with my two little girls of 8 and 10. Kids were crying. And nobody really knew what to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't panic, neither did anybody else in our class. It was just, OK, let's just follow instructions and do what needs to be done. To tell you the truth, we have no place to shelter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First thing I did was call all my children. And I was careful to just say, "Hey, I love you today" and not tell them what was happening because they're not on island. But it was very scary.

VANIER: We're learning how local university students reacted to the false alarm. Ashley Nagaoka from our affiliate KHNL reports from the University of Hawaii.

AUSTIN COLEMAN, JUNIOR AT UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII, MANOA: And I banged on their door. I was like, guys, get up. Like, for real, we've got to get out of here. We have like - because we already know we have 15 minutes.

ASHLEY NAGAOKA, REPORTER, KHNL: Austin Coleman, a junior at UH, Manoa, says he saw the alert on his cell phone and immediately ran to wake up his roommates.

COLEMAN: We're all packing all, like panicking and getting stuff ready, like we're getting water and just like some food that we have. And we're all calling our loved ones.

NAGAOKA: Coleman says they decided to leave their dorm room at Frear Hall. They recall seeing the fear in people's eyes once outside.

COLEMAN: We're coming down outside of Frear and I just see like people are running past us. Like, there's like a group of people, like, crying and like -- I saw people on the road just like running in the middle of the road.

NAGAOKA: The roommates say they ran here to Bilger Hall because they knew there was a fallout shelter. But when they tried to get in, all the doors were locked.

COLEMAN: Everyone was freaking out. Everyone was on their phones, like - like, what do we do, where do we go?

NAGAOKA: Coleman says someone in the group had a key to a classroom in the Marine Sciences Building. So everyone ran there.

COLEMAN: And people were screaming like, you've got to shut the doors, like it's -- time's running out. And there at least was like 200-plus people in there. It was getting hard to breathe. If you had to go to the bathroom, you couldn't go. Like, it was just a recipe for disaster if the missile hit.

NAGAOKA: Eventually the all-clear was given. UH officials say the fallout shelter signage on campus is old from the Cold War era and is scheduled to be removed. The university says it is working to identify new shelter locations on campus for its students. The school wants to remind students there are counselors on campus 24/7. And Residence Hall staff will be checking in with students.

Reporting from Manoa, Ashley Nagaoka, Hawaii News Now.

VANIER: And Hawaii's Governor spoke with CNN's Ana Cabrera earlier. He says he's already taking steps to prevent this from ever happening again.

IGE: I've directed the agency to suspend all of these tests until we can do a better review. We've already taken action to institute a change in the process so that there will be two people involved so that a single individual will not be able to send an alert out. And we will be undertaking a more comprehensive review of the process and make the changes as necessary.

ANA CABRERA, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Are you worried at all, Governor, about just the reputation of this Emergency Management Agency taking a hit, should there be a real drill and people taking it seriously?

IGE: We certainly as an agency are concerned. You know, many of the employees were disappointed in their performance during this time. We are committed to making the changes in the processes to assure that this never happens again.

VANIER: The U.S. President Donald Trump was playing golf in Florida when he found out about the incident. The White House said the President has been briefed on the State of Hawaii's emergency management exercise. This was purely a state-controlled exercise.

Well, beyond that, bare bones statement, the administration has been tight-lipped. Still unknown is when exactly the President was informed of the alert and when he learned that it was a false alarm. Also not known, whether the President tried to communicate with Japan, South Korea, or China during this time and whether he ordered any action.

A Hawaii State Representative Matthew LoPresti joins us now from Hawaii. He and his family endured the alert as it was happening.

Sir, thank you for joining us. Would you run us through the moment that you thought a missile was headed your way, how did you find out? MATTHEW LOPRESTI, HAWAII STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Yes, I was trying to sleep in late. And my phone kept ringing. And my wife came in with the alert because her phone got the alert, mine didn't. It was my staff calling me.

And it took a few seconds to really realize this was happening. And we leapt into action, grabbed our children, grabbed some emergency supplies, and moved them all to the most -- innermost room in our house.

VANIER: As a resident of Hawaii, is this something that you live with, that you think, well, this might happen one day? And if so, did you think at that point, well, the day has come?

LOPRESTI: Yes, and yes. You know, my role as Vice Chair of the Public Safety Committee has been to try to elevate awareness about just this sort of threat and to make sure that there's resources for Emergency Management Agency. We're to plan properly and implement, if need be. So it was a rather surreal experience. But we took it very seriously.

VANIER: How long did it take you to find - did it take you specifically - I suppose you were making calls -- to find out that it was actually a false alert?

LOPRESTI: Yes. So we got into the -- we put our kids in the bathtub, made as many phone calls as I could. My phone kept blowing up. So it was difficult actually to get information out. But it wasn't -- so it takes about 12 to 13 minutes for impact, they say. And at about 14 minutes, we got a notification from a family member in the Air Force who was on duty at the time that it was a false alarm.

So I wasn't able to get through to any of the Emergency Management Agency people, any of the Governor's staff, or anything like that. And we found out through family members that are in the armed services that it was an all-clear. And then we confirmed that.

The whole time trying to put messages out on social media, letting people know that as far as we know, we're taking it seriously, shelter in place. And as soon as we got the false alarm notice, we put that out as well.

VANIER: All right. Matthew LoPresti, Hawaii State Representative, I know the committee that you're on is going to want to find out more about how this happened, how this could have happened and what can be done to improve the situation shortly. So we'll want to talk to you again when you get some answers. Thank you very much.

Japan is extending its missile evacuation drills to the capital amid the North Korea nuclear threat. For the first time, Central Tokyo is getting ready to practice what to do in case of a missile attack. The drill is scheduled for January 22nd, and it was planned, it has to be said, before the false missile alert in Hawaii. Japan has already conducted similar drills across the country like this one at this elementary school that CNN actually visited last year.

Coming up, a heartbreaking look into the short life of little Zainab Ansari. Next, how her family in Pakistani community are fighting for justice.

There was the ongoing search for survivors after the recent mudslides in California. We'll see how people are giving thanks to rescue workers. Stay with us.


VANIER: In Pakistan, the family of 7-year-old Zainab Ansari don't want to let her go just yet. They're eager to talk about her life. And they're desperate for answers after this little girl's brutal murder. As police investigate, the entire community is living in fear that their children are also at risk.

Alexandra Field has the details.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They found her with mud caked on her little face. Zainab Ansari left dead, dumped on a pile of trash.

MUHAMMED AMIN ANSARI, FATHER OF ZAINAB ANSARI: Allah had made her so lovely that whoever met her instantly fell in love with her.

FIELD: A 7-year-old who liked mangoes and ice cream, murdered.

ABU ZAR ANSARI, BROTHER OF ZAINAB ANSARI: She was so funny. I miss her laughter. I can't forget her laughter. I can't sleep.

FIELD: The 12th little girl in 12 months raped, according to authorities. 11 of them killed in this town in Eastern Pakistan, Kasur. Authorities also say they've discovered DNA links connecting six of the victims. They suspect a serial killer may be on the loose.

MUHAMMAD IQBAL, NEIGHBOR: We are not letting our girls get out. We are terrified about their safety after what happened to Zainab.

FIELD: There have been no answers for Zainab's grieving family, and still no justice for the other little girls. Mounting frustration with authorities fueled an outpouring of outrage. Days after her death, demonstrations turned deadly when protesters clashed with police.

Zainab's father now says authorities failed to protect his daughter, and they haven't done enough to track down her killer.

ANSARI: I am concerned about this system that my daughter could have been saved. But the acts of the authorities, their disinterest and lack of help had led to the death of my child.

FIELD: Investigators say they're making every effort to find whoever cut short the life of a little girl who hoped to be a doctor or a teacher.

Zainab was last seen leaving to study the Quran. Then, here on grainy CCTV video with a man police still haven't identified. Kasur is now a town haunted by loss. A community left only with memories and signs of what the future could have looked like.

Alexandra Field, CNN, Islamabad. VANIER: Israel says it attacked a site in Gaza Saturday near the Egyptian border. It says fighter jets targeted, quote , "Terror infrastructure" and that it holds Hamas accountable for all activity in and around -- all activity in the Gaza strip.

Israel also announced on Saturday it was closing one of its border crossings with Gaza. The military said the move was made following an assessment of the situation.

The Trump administration says it is accepting some renewal applications to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation. The federal government is following a court ruling, which for now prevents the administration from ending the program known as DACA. Officials say new applications, however, will not be accepted.

The President was in a meeting on the DACA program last week when, according to several senators, he used a vulgar slur to describe some African countries. Despite calls for an apology, the President was not having any of that.

In fact, he went on the attack again on Saturday, tweeting this. "I don't believe the Democrats really want to see a deal on DACA. They're all talk and no action. This is the time, but day-by-day they are blowing the one great opportunity they have." "Too bad," he adds.

The Trump administration is phasing out a separate program as part of its immigration overhaul. That program had been allowing some people from El Salvador to stay in the U.S. without visas. It affects about 0.25 million people, many who have built lives and raised children in the intervening years.

Patrick Oppmann spoke with one family suddenly facing an uncertain future.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At the end of a dirt road in the mountains of El Salvador is a family facing a gut-wrenching decision. Rogelio Galmadaz has lived in the United States for the last 17 years. He may soon return here.

The Trump administration announced in January they're ending the program that allowed over 200,000 Salvadorans like Rogelio to live legally in the U.S. In 18 months, he could be deported. Rogelio worries about the impact the change in policy could have on the already impoverished and crime-ridden country.

"The worry is that if there were a massive deportation," he says, "this would become I guess I would call it a hell. It's a disaster. Everyone wants to work, but there isn't any."

So Rogelio has come back to El Salvador for a few weeks with the money he earns working as a landscaper in New York to finish the home he is building here, should he return for good.

So he's telling me that because many other people (ph) along the same lines as him, they might need to come back the path (ph) that's really hard on workers (inaudible) because so many other people are fixing their homes.

But Rogelio's biggest concern is his three children, all born in the United States. His eldest have been to El Salvador just twice. This is 6-year-old Jocelyn's (ph) first visit.

What do they know about El Salvador?


OPPMANN: Rogelio says he doesn't want to live in the U.S. illegally or run the risk of having his family separated. So he may soon move his children, all U.S. citizens, back to El Salvador, one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

Even here in the remote countryside, criminal gangs terrorize the population. Barbed wire fencing surrounds Rogelio's house.

MARELIN GALMADAZ, WIFE OF ROGELIO GALMADAZ: For us, it's going to be really hard. And I keep telling him, I like it here, but I wouldn't live here.

OPPMANN: They may have no choice. Rogelio would hope to provide his children a better life in the U.S. but afraid of what could happen if he's deported.

"The day I'm not with them and they're not with me," he says, "I think they're going to suffer, and I will too."

Rogelio drives his children to the airport to fly back to the U.S. He will remain in El Salvador a little while longer to finish their home, just in case. They don't know what the future holds, but they say they will do whatever it takes to stay together.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN, from El Salvador.

VANIER: In Southern California, at least 19 people are now confirmed dead from Tuesday's massive mudslides. The latest victim identified was a 25-year-old woman found Saturday. The body of her 12-year-old sister was recovered just days earlier.

As CNN's Paul Vercammen reports, rescue workers hope that they can still find survivors.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, REPORTER/PRODUCER, CNN: A week of endless challenges for tireless first responders when a mountainside fell onto a community. The destruction so vast, it covered 30 square miles in rock and mud.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are no roads. There are no houses. It's just -- I'm so devastated by what I'm seeing.

VERCAMMEN: Rescue teams using BearCats, brand-new unmarked SWAT vehicles, to pluck people from second-storey windows. This family finally rescued from the upper level of their home after trying to ride it out on their own. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We thought about staying and -- because we were

fine. We have - we have power and we got Internet going, and we're with our hotspot on our phone, and we thought we have water. Then the power went out.

VERCAMMEN: These BearCats, four-wheel drive and running high above the muddy ground, can go where no other vehicles can. This team alone has pulled more than 30 people from danger.

SERGEANT JOHN SCHMIDT, SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: For most of us, that first day, Tuesday morning, was very surreal. We weren't -- couldn't really comprehend the devastation till we got to the area and saw areas of homes that were wiped out and just rubble and debris everywhere.

VERCAMMEN: Look at some of the obstacles first responders had to deal with. Massive boulders that came rolling down the hill as if they were bowling balls. And in some instances, you can see just over my shoulder, rocks and mud up to the rooftops. The round-the-clock hard work of first responders not lost on residents here.

JON GRIFFITH (ph), RESIDENT: I was just going to put my hand out and say - I want to say thank you for your sacrifice.

VERCAMMEN: This serial handshaker is Jon Griffith (ph). He stopped at a staging area to give thanks for the dignity first responders showed the victims.

GRIFFITH (ph): They stood at attention, they covered the body, they took their hats off, they shed a tear, and they treated that body like it was one of their own.

VERCAMMEN: The shoreline looks peaceful until a little perspective reveals muddy mayhem is everywhere. For the first responders, restoring paradise seems endless, sundown to sundown.

Paul Vercammen, CNN, Montecito, California.

VANIER: I want to bring in Ivan Cabrera now from the CNN weather center. A serious tropical cyclone, Ivan, is approaching the Indian Ocean Islands of Mauritius and Reunion. And that -- what's the status for that?

IVAN CABRERA, METEOROLOGIST AND CNN WEATHER ANCHOR: Well, we're looking at the system now. It's really not that well organized. The problem is the next couple of days, I think, it's going to really crank up as far as the wind is concerned here.

Taking you to South Indian Ocean where things spin in the other direction, the Coriolis force that we talk about here or south of the equator. So areas of low pressure. Well, you can see they're spinning clockwise indeed. And this is the area of low pressure.

This is a tropical storm, the equivalent of -- down here we call them the tropical cyclones. And this will become the equivalent I think of a Category 2 - eventually Category 2 hurricane. But there is Mauritius further down the pike, south and west, Saint Denis.

And we'll continue to see this thing really cranking up I think as far as the winds. Right now, 95 kilometer per hour winds gusting to 120. It's moving west at 7 kph. But (inaudible) you see all these icons representing not much movement, right? Here we are at 24 hours, under 130 kilometer-per-hour winds that would be the equivalent of a typhoon at that point. And then at 48 hours, really getting its act together as far as its strength and then it just dives down towards the island.

And by the way, not just the islands but impacting with Madagascar as well - I'll show you that in a second -- indirectly because we're going to have some of that moisture out ahead of this system. So the center of low pressure doesn't have it in top of you (ph) right to get the rainfall. It's actually going to begin within the next 24 hours.

I just don't think the winds will be significant until we get to about 72 and 96 hours. So it's just a few days away. But while it's here, we'll put this into motion and be able to see some of those rain bands impacting with not just the islands here of Mauritius and Reunion, but looking at Madagascar, it was significant downpours. But the main system will remain to the east.

As we take you a world away, and once again, the United States here, and of course, Eastern Canada provinces, Quebec, Montreal, my goodness, they're going to be 20, 40 degrees below zero. That's the way the wind chills are going to work.

But in the States, we do have these wind chill advisories that are issued, of course, when wind chills are going to be dangerously low when you only have to be out for 15 to 30 minutes and you begin to get into a dangerous situation with frostbite.

Here are the morning lows. That's nice to wake up to, right, if you need extra hot coffee in the morning to get through that. Once we get -- we had a bit of a respite, but at this point, we're going right the other way. And that is just painful to watch. Look at those minus 20s up in the Minneapolis. I could not live that far north.

VANIER: It's going to feel even worse, you're saying, right?

CABRERA: It's going to feel worse. It's the wind that makes it feel colder. So walk slowly to your vehicle. That's my only advice -- or remain indoors. It's a weekend...


CABRERA: ... so a lot of people are going to hopefully be indoors - the cozy indoors as opposed to out there.

VANIER: Yes. You know, kids are going to miss a couple of days of school. Some of those schools are just going to shut down.

CABRERA: And Monday is a holiday. The news says so (ph). There you go.

VANIER: All right. Ivan Cabrera, thank you very much.

Ivan from the CNN Weather Center, thanks.

Mark Wahlberg is donating $1.5 million to the TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund for sexual harassment victims, and he is doing it in Michelle Williams' name. Reports said Wahlberg's paycheck for reshoots in his latest film eclipsed his co-stars by a whopping 99 percent just blew up on social media this weekend. Those reshoots were for the film, "All the Money in the World."


VANIER: Well, the reshoots and the paycheck controversy that followed came after Director Ridley Scott decided to replace Kevin Spacey, one of the original cast members, because of sexual misconduct allegations.

That's it from us. Thanks for watching CNN Newsroom.

We'll be back with headlines in just a moment. Stay with us.