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‘I’m ok’: Survivors of Typhoon Odette write letters to loved ones

With no mobile signal or internet to contact loved ones, typhoon survivors stranded on a devastated Philippine island have written letters to reassure worried relatives they are alive.

Photos of the touching missives were posted Monday on the Facebook page of Dinagat Islands Governor Arlene Bag-ao, who has been able to get online during trips to the neighboring island of Mindanao where she is seeking help for her constituents.

"We are happy to be alive," Aimee Antonio-Jimeno wrote in a letter dated December 19 and addressed to "my dearest sister."

"Our houses are roofless but we are not hopeless! Please let all our families know."

At least 14 people died on Dinagat Islands when Typhoon Odette (international name: Rai) hit Thursday, tearing houses to pieces, toppling concrete power poles and smashing fishing boats.

The national death toll from the strongest storm to hit the country this year exceeds 200. 

Many of Dinagat's 128,000 residents sheltered in evacuation centers ahead of the storm and are now homeless. There is also a shortage of drinking water and food, officials said.

After receiving requests for updates on the situation, Bag-ao urged people to write letters to their families outside Dinagat to let them know they were safe.

She posted the epistles to Facebook -- the most popular social media platform in the Philippines -- titled "Letters from Dinagat Islands." 

"Please stop worrying about me. I'm fine," a woman wrote on provincial health office stationery.

"The house you all wanted me to move out of is one of the houses still standing so sometimes it's a good thing I'm too lazy to move," she said wryly.

But in a somber note, she added: "Twelve deaths and counting, sanitation is a problem."

Raymond Gonzales wrote briefly: "I'm ok here. Let's just spend Christmas here."

"All of us are safe," wrote Jane Mayola. "Merry Christmas and hope to see you all soon! We love you!!!"

Provincial information officer Jeff Crisostomo told ANC that Dinagat Islands had been "levelled to the ground" by the typhoon. 

"I saw tables that were heavier than people being blown off from the second floor," he said.

"When we got out I saw the devastation -- the houses were all destroyed." — Agence France-Presse