New Year's fireworks disaster at Australian beach

Photo credit: @sonderdesign/Instagram

Thousands of people have been evacuated after an Australian fireworks display went awry on Sunday. 

Crowds had gathered on Terrigal Beach, north of Sydney, to watch the 9pm display and welcome in the new year - but a pyrotechnic malfunction had other plans in mind. 

A huge explosion lit a nearby barge alight and forced two technicians on board to dive headfirst into the water, narrowly escaping the fire before police and ambulance could arrive at the scene, around five minutes into the display. 

One spectator told the Sydney Morning Herald the explosion "sort of hit you in the chest", and confirmed that the barge was "well and truly alight right in front of the surf club" around 150 metres off shore. 

One Instagram user posted a video of the display, marking the exact moment the fireworks barge "detonates".

A NSW Police spokesperson said the technicians on the barge had "suffered minor injuries and were being treated by NSW Ambulance paramedics before being taken to hospital", and confirmed they were safe.

The two men are understood to be shaken by the experience. 

The barge continued to float towards the shore on Sunday evening and was monitored overnight by local firefighters.