Reports of homes completely destroyed are coming in as limited contact is restored with Fiji's southern islands following Tropical Cyclone Gita.
As the storm approached last night as a category 4 cyclone, communications were lost with isolated parts of the Lau archipelago, leaving hundreds cut off from contact with the outside world.
The main concern was for the low-lying atolls of Ono-i-Lau and Vatoa, which were directly in the cyclone's path.
Three villages on Ono-i-Lau and one on Vatoa are home to about 200 people.
Wind gusts at Ono-i-Lau had reached 190km/h last night.
Desperate people boarded up their homes and stocked up on essential supplies while praying and hoping for the best before heading to the safety of emergency shelters.
Fiji Disaster Management Office director Anare Leweniqila said limited contact had been restored with Ono-i-Lau this morning.
"At this stage it seems Fiji can count itself lucky in terms of the amount of damage," Leweniqila said.
There were reports of three homes that had been completely destroyed on Ono-i-Lau, but no reports of injuries yet.
Police are attending from nearby islands to further assess the damage and verify reports.
The worst of the cyclone missed Fiji's largest islands, with only a bit of rain through the night, Leweniqila said.
"It is sunny now in Suva," Leweniqila said.
Tropical Cyclone Gita has been upgraded to category 5 this morning, the highest level, carrying sustained winds of greater than 200km/h.
The Fiji Meteorological Service upgraded the cyclone in its latest report this morning, as it moves away from Fiji towards New Caledonia.
NIWA said that during today and tomorrow Gita would pass over some of the warmest seas, or fuel, during its lifespan, near 30C.
On Friday it will cross water cooler than 26.5C, and lose some strength.
New Zealand Metservice lead meteorologist Michael Martens said the cyclone arrived in the southern Lau island group about 6pm yesterday, slowly passing through until about 10pm.
"But even several hours either side of that would have been quite bad, similar to what Tonga experienced.
"There would have been very strong winds and heavy rain - definitely not something you would want to be in."
Martens said the cyclone would travel west over the next 48 hours to just below New Caledonia.
It was not on track to strike New Caledonia directly, but parts of it "would still feel the effects".
After passing New Caledonia, Gita is forecast to turn south on Sunday and southeast on Monday and enter the central Tasman Sea.
"It is still on track to potentially hit parts of New Zealand early next week; where exactly is still uncertain.
It would downgrade further from a tropical cyclone to an ex-cyclone, likely becoming a category 2 storm on Monday or Tuesday, as it entered the relatively cooler waters of the Tasman Sea, Martens said.
"But it would still bring very strong winds and heavy rain."
Residents in neighbouring Tonga are picking up the pieces today after the cyclone left a trail of destruction overnight Monday, ripping off roofs, flattening homes and leaving dozens of people injured.
The destruction of the cyclone left three people with serious injuries and 30 others with minor injuries in Tongatapu, Tongan Police spokeswoman Sia Adams said.
The cyclone also contributed to the death of a 72-year-old man who suffered a heart attack, according to the Tongan Director of Health. The man was rushed to hospital on Monday night, but died before arrival.
The winds which peaked at 230km/h flattened parts of Parliament House and levelled dozens of homes, churches and powerlines.
"I have never experienced anything like that," Tonga High School French teacher Virginie Dourlet said.
The roof of the Tongan Meteorological Building was ripped off, forcing updates to be deployed by radio.
Graham Kenna, from Tonga's National Emergency Management Office, said the damage was widespread and severe.
His Majesty's Armed Forces had been clearing debris from roads all morning to allow emergency services to get across the main island of Tongatapu to assess the damage.
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said New Zealand was making available an initial $750,000 to support relief efforts in Tonga.
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) delivered 12 tonnes of aid and disaster relief supplies to communities in Tonga this morning.
A Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules carrying aid and a 10-member initial assessment team arrived at Fua'amotu International Airport on Tongatapu yesterday evening.
"Tonga is a close neighbour of New Zealand and we stand ready to assist our neighbours in times like these," Air Commodore Kevin McEvoy, the Acting Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said.
The supplies from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's (MFAT) emergency stores included 500 family hygiene kits, 200 shelter tool kits, 2300 10-litre collapsible water containers and 1000 tarpaulins.
Australia also responded to requests for aid as it deployed $350,000 in life-saving equipment.