As India’s COVID-19 cases crossed the 9.2 million mark on Wednesday with over 44,000 new infections, the country’s southern coast is bracing for Cyclone Nivar, which is expected to make landfall tonight.

“It is very likely to move northwestwards and cross Tamil Nadu and Puducherry coast…during midnight of 25.11.2020 and early hours of 26.11.2020 as a very cyclonic storm with a wind speed of 120 and 130 kmph [over 80 miles] gusting to 145kmph [90 miles],” a statement issued by the Tamil Nadu State Disaster Management Authority said on Wednesday morning.

With state governments expecting widespread damage due to the cyclone, the authorities have taken several steps including cancellation of flights and trains as a precautionary measure. Bus services in seven Tamil Nadu districts have been suspended, officials said. A public holiday has also been announced in Tamil Nadu.

The Indian Navy said it is closely monitoring the situation and keeping ships on standby. “Indian Navy is closely monitoring its movement. Headquarters, Tamil Nadu & Puducherry Naval Area is in constant touch with the State Admin officials to render assistance as required. Ships, aircraft, rescue and diving teams have been kept standby,” the navy said on Twitter.

Local media reported the authorities have imposed section 144 in Puducherry which prohibits assembly of more than four people.

Meanwhile, an update released by India’s Health Ministry on Wednesday morning said 44,376 new cases were registered across the country in the past 24 hours. With 481 fresh deaths, the total death toll in the country reached 134,699.

Indian National Congress veteran Ahmed Patel, who tested positive for COVID-19, died Wednesday morning, his family said. The party said Patel was a pillar of the party.

“It is a sad day. Shri Ahmed Patel was a pillar of the Congress party. He lived and breathed Congress and stood with the party through its most difficult times. He was a tremendous asset. We will miss him. My love and condolences to Faisal, Mumtaz & the family,” Rahul Gandhi, a senior Congress leader, tweeted.

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