Fiji declared a nationwide curfew on Saturday, as airlines suspended flights and the prime minister warned people to seek refuge from a cyclone that could prove to be the Pacific island nation's most powerful on record.
After twice hammering outlying islands in nearby Tonga last week, Cyclone Winston re-intensified and began to track west towards Suva, the capital of Fiji, packing winds of 230 km per hour, with gusts of up to 325 km/h.
RAW: Cyclone Winston lashes Fiji
Running of bulls ends in gore
6500 migrants rescued off Libyan coast
Cold case: China's 'Jack the Ripper' caught
Suicide bomb kills dozens in Yemen
US voter database hacked
Construction, design blamed for Samarco disaster
Bali's rice fields farmers taking a stand
RAW: Cyclone Winston lashes Fiji
RAW VISION: Power lines spark and roofs disintegrate as category-5 Tropical Cyclone Winston makes landfall in Fiji.
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama urged Fijians to prepare themselves for a "terrible event", Australian broadcaster ABC reported.
"We cannot afford to be complacent," it quoted the prime minister as saying. "And I am especially concerned that some people in urban areas do not appear to have heeded the warnings about the seriousness of the threat."
A nationwide curfew has been imposed, the government said on social media website Facebook.
As Fiji's weather service warned people in the east to "expect very destructive hurricane-force winds," Suva resident Alice Clements said the power had failed just after 5pm and she expected water supplies to be hit next.
"I have palm trees flying all around me at the moment," Clements, an official with a UN agency, told Reuters.
Airlines Virgin and Jetstar suspended flights into and out of Fiji's international airport at Nadi, while the national carrier suspended all flights.
Local media reported an elderly man has died on Koro island as Tropical Cyclone Winston, described as one of the most powerful storms in recorded history, lashes the mainland with wind gusts of up to 325km/h.
About 1200 Australians are registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as being in Fiji, although the actual number is thought to be much higher.
Resorts boarded their windows and practised emergency alarms and procedures ahead of the cyclone, which is the strongest storm to directly hit Fiji ever recorded.
Fiji Airways and Virgin Australia have grounded all flights in and out of Nadi.
Jane Irvine, 22, is on vacation in Warrick, on Fiji's south-west coast, with friend Patrick Sibberas. The Monash University pharmaceutical student, from Macleod in Melbourne, said local radio reports in Fiji were urging people to stay inside.
"Furniture is off balconies in rooms. Anything that could blow away is tied down," she said, adding supermarkets had been "crazy busy" as people stocked up on supplies.
Furry Facts: Tornadoes
They're some of the most destructive forces on the planet, but what is the difference between a tornado and a cyclone?
Tourists have also been evacuated off some resort islands as a precaution. Peter Joli Wilson, a photojournalist living in Coolangatta on the Gold Coast, chose to remain on Namotu Island when it was evacuated.
The 65-year-old said he wanted to stay to help his friend, who owned a resort on the island.
Virgin Airways announced on Saturday that it had cancelled all flights in and out of Nadi on Saturday and Sunday, and will review flights scheduled for Monday.
"Our team of meteorologists and safety experts have been closely monitoring Tropical Cyclone Winston and have determined that conditions are not suitable for flying in or out of Nadi, Fiji," Virgin Australia said in a statement.
Affected travellers can change their travel dates or destinations without incurring fees, the airline said.
Fiji Airways also cancelled scores of flights on Saturday, including flights into Nadi from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
The departure times for Saturday morning flights out of Nadi to Brisbane and Melbourne were moved forward.
Matthew Karstunen, a journalist at the ABC, has been on holiday in Nadi, Fiji and was due to fly home on Monday. The 21-year-old Sydney man said he is now unsure of when he will be able to leave.
Mr Karstunen said tourist activities like snorkelling trips had been called off, with many tourists now staying inside their hotels.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has advised travellers heading to Fiji in coming days to contact their airline.
It also warned Australians currently in Fiji to expect severe weather conditions and to follow the instructions of local hotel management.
"You should expect high winds, heavy rains and storm surges in coastal areas," the department said on their website.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia's thoughts were with the people of Fiji.
"I have contacted Foreign Minister Kubuabola to offer Australia's support and assistance," she said.
"Australians are frequent travellers to Fiji and we have a great affection for its people.
"There are 1200 Australians registered with Smartraveller as being in Fiji, but I expect there are many more currently in the country.
"If Australians have any concerns about friends and family in Fiji, I urge you to attempt to contact them directly first."
The Fiji Meteorological Service warned residents in the nation's eastern islands to "expect very destructive, hurricane-force winds".
The forecast also warns of flooding from heavy rains and storm surges.
Winston initially passed west and south of Fiji before turning back toward the island earlier this week.
"Destructive winds may begin several hours before the cyclone centre passes overhead or nearby," the Fiji-based Joint Typhoon Warning Centre said.
Ships within 300 nautical miles of the storm were asked to report in every three hours and told to expect "phenomenal seas within 30 nautical miles of the centre".
CARE Australia's Pacific Gender Advisor, Anna Cowley, said the organisation was ready to assist "people living in poorly constructed housing in settlements around the capital Suva"."These people are highly vulnerable and their homes offer very little protection from these hurricane-force winds."
Fiji is one hour ahead of Melbourne and Sydney time.
Australians who are unable to reach their friends or family in Fiji and hold concerns for their welfare are urged to contact the Consular Emergency Centre on 1300 555 135.
- with Goya Dmytryshchak and Han Nguyen