Cyclone Gita battered Tonga overnight, ripping roofs off buildings, smashing homes and tearing down power lines.
The government’s Parliament House building was completely flattened while flooding was widespread.
No deaths have been reported to date and the cyclone has now left the South Pacific Polynesian Kingdom.
Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama warned residents to “heed warnings and prepare”, although the storm is expected to bypass heavily populated areas.
What happened in Tonga today? Latest news
Tonga, located east of Fiji and north of New Zealand, is usually celebrated for its beautiful white-sand beaches and serene islands, making it a popular honeymoon destination.
Today, the Pacific Ocean nation looked more like a nightmare, with around 40 percent of homes damaged and felled trees marking flooded roads.
A clean-up operation started from around 1.30am today (local time) with soldiers clearing the roads to enable people to get medical attention.
NZ Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said in a statement: “The full extent of damage caused by Cyclone Gita is still being assessed but there is an immediate need for assistance on the ground.
“About 5,700 people sought shelter in evacuation centres overnight, and it is expected these numbers will increase substantially tonight.”
Graham Kenna, an Australian government adviser at Tonga’s National Emergency Management Office said there were a lot of injured people, some seriously.
He said: ”Every second power pole has been knocked over and the lines are just everywhere,” adding it would likely be days before power could be restored.
New Zealand – which may yet be hit by the tropical storm, has pledged NZ$750,000 ($545,000) in aid.
A NZ Air Force Hercules aircraft was due to fly emergency relief supplies into Tonga today.
Australia is also donating A$350,000 ($275,000) worth of emergency shelter, kitchen and hygiene kits.