The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake which hit Friday at a depth of 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) had a magnitude of 6.8.
The epicenter of the quake was off the coast of eastern Sulawesi, on the other side of the island from disaster-hit city of Palu, where a 7.5-magnitude quake followed by a 20ft tsunami killed more than 4,400 people last September.
However tremors were still felt there, causing residents to run into the streets in panic.
Panicked residents of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi fled in cars and on motorbikes after the country’s geophysics agency said a tsunami is possible
Tremors were felt hundreds of miles from the epicenter of the quake, causing residents including mothers with young children (left) to run into the streets in panic
‘I ran straight outside after the earthquake – everything was swaying,’ 29-year-old Palu resident Mahfuzah told AFP.
Those living in coastal communities also fled their homes after Indonesia’s geophysics agency issued a tsunami warning for the Morowali district, but there were not immediate reports of casualties or damage.
But the USGS warned that considerable damage was possible in poorly built or badly designed structures.
Thousands in Palu were living in makeshift shelters six months after the September 28 disaster, with at least 170,000 residents of the city and surrounding districts displaced and entire neighbourhoods still in ruins, despite life returning to normal in other areas of the tsunami-struck city.
The force of the quake saw entire neighbourhoods levelled by liquefaction – a process where the ground starts behaving like a liquid and swallows up the earth like quicksand.
Apart from the damage to tens of thousands of buildings, the disaster destroyed fishing boats, shops and irrigation systems, robbing residents of their income.
There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage, but a tsunami warning was issued for the Morowali district on Central Sulawesi’s east coast
The streets in central Sulawesi were packed with people on Friday evening after an earthquake of 6.8 magnitude struck, triggering a tsunami warning
Indonesia has said the damage bill in Palu topped $900 million. The World Bank has offered the country up to $1 billion in loans to get the city back on its feet.
Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth due to its position straddling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide.
Sulawesi is one of the five main islands of the sprawling archipelago, which is also lined with more than 100 volcanoes.
At the end of last year, an erupting volcano in the middle of the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra islands killed more than 400 people.
WHAT IS EARTH’S ‘RING OF FIRE’?
Earth’s so-called ‘Ring of Fire’ is a horseshoe-shaped geological disaster zone that is a hot bed for tectonic and volcanic activity.
Roughly 90 per cent of the world’s earthquakes occur in the belt, which is also home to more than 450 volcanoes.
The seismic region stretches along the Pacific Ocean coastlines, where the Pacific Plate grinds against other plates that form the Earth’s crust.
It loops from New Zealand to Chile, passing through the coasts of Asia and the Americas on the way.
In total, the loop makes up a 25,000-mile (40,000-kilometre) -long zone prone to frequent earthquakes and eruptions.
The region is susceptible to disasters because it is home to a vast number of ‘subduction zones’, areas where tectonic plates overlap.
Earthquakes are triggered when these plates scrape or slide underneath one another, and when that happens at sea it can spawn tsunamis.