Tropical Cyclone Gita has left flooded streets, broken trees and roofs everywhere in the Tongan capital Nuku'alofa.
"I have never experienced anything like that," Tonga High School French teacher Virginie Dourlet said.
"It was a very long night. Stressful and taxing on the nerves, very noisy."
Her room flooded so she spent the night upstairs with her landlord and his family.
"We spent the night helping each other, sharing out courage."
At one point debris flew off a tree and smashed a window of the house.
"It was a very scary night," she said.
"It was not until daylight that we realised the damage it had done.
"There is flooding absolutely everywhere, and it is all from rain as we are far back from the sea. Trees are broken, some have been completely uprooted.
"We are fortunate as our roof stayed on, but many of the neighbours' roofs flew off."
The clean-up had already begun. Tractors are clearing debris and people are fixing roofs.
"The winds have died down now so it is much safer."
Dourlet has lived in Tonga since 2013 and has experienced several cyclones.
"I experienced Winston, but in the early stages when it was category 2.
"This was like two times Winston. I can't even compare."
Everybody around them was safe, but she had heard of unconfirmed casualties around the country.
In its 6am update the Fiji Metservice said Tropical Cyclone Gita was moving west towards the southern Fijian islands, and was about 200km southeast of Ono-i-Lau and 570km southeast of Kadavu.
Average winds were up to 195km/h, with gusts of 275km/h.
The average winds are expected to increase to 215km/h by midday, with gusts of 295km/h.
The cyclone is moving at 28km/h, and will draw close to the islands this afternoon or evening bringing destructive winds, rains, thunderstorms and heavy seas.
From Fiji, Gita is forecast to travel south of New Caledonia and into the Tasman Sea on Saturday.
New Zealand Metservice tropical cyclone forecaster Matthew Ford said it was still a long way from New Zealand.
"It is about a week away, and these cyclones are notoriously fickle so it could change completely.
"The key message is for New Zealanders to stay informed and up to date with the forecast."
Metservice New Zealand lead meteorologist Michael Martens said Gita would lose power as it moved into cooler water.
"Once it moves out of the tropics and the sea temperature decreases it will lose a lot of its power.
"Even if it gets up to a category 5 it will likely be a 3 or a mid-level 2 storm if it reaches New Zealand."