A security lapse has caused chaos at a domestic terminal at Sydney Airport, with substantial delays expected to extend well into the evening.

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A power failure caused a security screening checkpoint in the T2 terminal to malfunction at 3.15pm (AEST) on Tuesday, leading to 16 passengers walking through without being screened.

Sydney Airport ordered the re-screening of the entire terminal, including many of those already on board aircraft waiting to take off.

Television footage showed concourse areas packed full of passengers.

“At approximately 3.15pm today, a walk-through security screening device at T2 lost power,” Sydney Airport said in a statement.

“As a result, 16 passengers passed through without being properly screened.

“Accordingly, the decision has been taken to clear the area and re-screen all passengers.”

Sydney Airport staff have so far been uncontactable for further comment.

But the airport’s website showed two Virgin Blue flights – due to take off for Brisbane and Melbourne in the afternoon – had been cancelled, although it was unclear if this was a direct result of the security lapse.

A Virgin Blue spokeswoman said the airline faced significant delays.

Tiger Airways and QantasLink flights were also affected.

Passengers used the social networking site Twitter to vent their frustration.

“Virgin Blue just boarded my flight to BrisVegas, reconsidered it and ordered everyone off. Seems like an odd time for indecision,” one passenger tweeted.

Another said: “Security breach Sydney Domestic Airport. Security gates shut. Massive queues.”

As well, passengers on board recently-landed aircraft were not being allowed to disembark.

“Just as I look out the window now, there’s now a traffic jam of planes on the runway, which is a bit of a surreal sight,” Fairfax journalist Stephen Ottley told Fairfax Media.

“We were told when we landed that the whole airport has actually been evacuated and so all the gates are held up with planes.”