A suspicious-looking item at a construction site on Fort Shafter caused the shut-down of Middle Street, a major traffic artery in Honolulu, causing police to evacuate homes and businesses in the surrounding neighborhood in Kalihi and snarling traffic.
Middle Street was shut down for more than an hour from 2:15 p.m. today. Emergency officials gave the all-clear shortly after 4 p.m.
The Army’s environmental compliance staff, conducting a routine inspection, noticed the unusual-looking item at 12:40 p.m. today, which turned out to be a piece of training equipment, inside a construction site near Warner and Wilson roads.
Army spokesman Dennis Drake said it looked like a plastic box.
The Army, assuming the worst, took precautions and also evacuated buildings and closed roads in the surrounding area as an investigation was conducted.
The Army’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians, the FBI and the Honolulu Police Department responded to the item.
They used a robot to determine it was not an explosive item.U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii said it was not part of the Army’s emergency response exercise conducted today and Wednesday.
Police went door to door telling residents, businesses and a preschool to evacuate immediately.
On Rose Street, foster care home operator Lourdes Bumanglag had to pack up three elderly patients in her car, and was unable to get help from a caregiver who was unable to get through.
“Police say evacuate now,” she said.
Bumanglag finally left shortly after 4 p.m., and wondered how long it would be.
Christina Cox of KCAA Na Lei Preschool said school officials got the order to evacuate at about 3:15 p.m., but shortly afterward police told them to shelter in place, and informed parents by electronic messaging at 3:22 p.m. of the news.
“We were just following their instructions,” she said. “I’m assuming it was less risk to stay inside then to walk to the evacuation site.”
Susannah Pagala said she was on her way home when she tried to turn on Middle Street. Police told her she had to turn around at about 3 p.m. “I went all the way to Salt Lake and waited until I heard the all clear on the Internet.”
Suki Son, owner of K.S. Matai Market, said she got the call from her cashier at 2:45 p.m. that police asked her to leave.
“We just closed right away and left,” she said. She reopened at 4:30 p.m.
Col. Thomas Barrett, commander of the U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii said: “We greatly appreciate the community’s patience and understanding throughout the response effort. The safety and security of our communities is something we take very seriously and today’s joint response demonstrates that.”