Awful and unnerving: What surviving the night when Tropical Cyclone Gita hit Tonga was like

The night weathering Tropical Cyclone Gita was "just awful", says Virgine Dourlet, a French woman living in Tonga's capital Nuku'alofa.

"It was just unnerving. The tension made it impossible to sleep," said Dourtlet.

Dourlet, who has lived in Tonga for five years and teaches French at a high school, was in the country when Cyclone Winston hit in 2016.

"That was bad. This was worse," she said. "I've seen a cyclone before. [But] I have never seen that before."

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On Tuesday, Dourlet said she was "ok", despite hardly any rest. She'd been up all night using Twitter to post raw updates about the storm.

Flooding was about 20 centimetres deep on her road, she said at 10am on Tuesday. "[It] has receded quite a bit but it's still everywhere," she said.

Dourlet said if it didn't drain away, there could be concerns of disease, infection and mosquitos from the floodwaters, which already smelled badly.

She'd kept in touch with friends overnight via her cellphone - they'd been texting each other messages of support. "There's been a huge amount of beautiful solidarity."

From her network, she'd heard of roofs flying off homes and "destruction was absolutely everywhere", but as far as she was aware, no-one she knew had been hurt.

The fact they'd had cell service and internet all night was impressive, Dourlet said, paying credit to the Tonga Communications Corporation.

"The communications network probably saved Tonga [last] night. I'm sure that has saved lives."

Dourlet's tweets provided an unfiltered insight into life at the heart of the storm.

At 1.55am, she wrote: "Checked outside again. My house is fast becoming an increasingly deep swimming pool."

At 2.40am, she posted: "There's the weirdest noise coming from outside, intermittently. It's like screeching except it's not. I'm way too tired to go check."

Just before 5am, another update said: "Woke up from a nap and had a look. No more rain [at the moment] and much less wind. It's too dark for image but my street is a swimming pool, blocked at least to the left by broken trees and what used to be a corrugated iron fence. My mosquito screen was ripped off."

Despite communications functioning, power and running water had failed, she said.

But the clean-up effort was already underway. Her neighbours were out with machetes and chainsaws early. "As soon as the sun was out, people were out assessing the damage and fixing it. No time was wasted. It's going to take forever to clean."

 - Stuff