The tornado ripped through a shared apartment and left several houses destroyed or badly damaged, Ed Conrow, director of Brunswick County Emergency Services, said during a news conference early Tuesday morning.
Most of the damage, as well as all injuries and deaths, occurred in the Ocean Ridge Plantation community, he told reporters.
“This is a very, very tragic event for our community and our county,” said Randy Thompson, Brunswick County Commissioner.
Conrow said rescue workers will secure gas leaks and systematically search all affected homes in daylight.
There are currently no missing persons pending, Conrow said.
“This is something I’ve never seen before,” Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram said during the briefing, adding that there was “a lot of destruction”.
“It will be a long recovery process,” said the sheriff.
Storms will continue to rule in the area and tornado clocks will continue to operate for eastern North Carolina, according to CNN meteorologist Michael Guy.
Areas north of Wilmington, including the Outer Banks to Elizabeth City, will be monitored until 8 a.m., he said.