Hawaii officials have reportedly begun urging citizens to prepare for the worst—a nuclear attack from North Korea amid the country’s increasingly threatening rhetoric.
The Washington Post reported that officials were discussing how to brace residents for a possible atomic attack. But as word got out of the reportedly “secret meeting” on Tuesday, Sept. 19, members of the meeting started informing the public.
“Now it’s time to take it seriously,” Hawaii state Rep. Gene Ward, a Republican, told Washington Post. “Not to be an alarmist, but to be informing people.”
Ward said the only reason the meeting was private was to avoid worrying the public at the time. He goes on to say that talk of nuclear preparedness is “probably more surreal to younger generations” who have no memory of a time when fallout shelters were common.
State Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi (D), who also attended the meeting, said “It’s very unsettling. There are people who are concerned. … The best way to deal with it is to be prepared for any scenario.”
On Thursday, North Korea’s foreign minister told reporters that there may be a hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific Ocean, after dictator Kim Jong Un vowed to take the “highest-level” action against the United States.
Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters the news outside the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Yonhap news agency reported.
“It could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific,” Ri told reporters. “We have no idea about what actions could be taken as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong-un.”
If a ballistic missile from the communist nation does strike Hawaii, it could cost thousands of lives and widespread damage to critical infrastructure, Vern Miyagi the administrator of the Emergency Management Agency warned on Thursday at an informational briefing.
During the briefing organized by state lawmakers, Miyagi states that although the scenario would not likely happen, it’s still a threat that Hawaii can’t ignore.
North Korea’s most likely target would likely be Honolulu, but Miyagi said that impact on a neighboring island also could not be ruled out. Officials believe there would be up to 15,000 casualties.
Once a missile is launched from North Korea, there will only be less than 20 minutes warning, Miyagi said.
Emergency Management Agency Executive Director Toby Clairmont stated that people who are driving should get out and lay flat on the ground or try to get near a concrete structure, adding that the roads would be filled with chaos.
Audience member Nick LaCarra asked about the lack of shelters in Hawaii. Since the end of the Cold War, funding for the maintenance of these shelters ran out because there were no more threats, Miyagi replied.
The Emergency Management Agency announced that Hawaii will conduct monthly tests of an “attack-warning” siren as well.