Reports were still trickling in from remote areas Friday, and paramedics with medicine and other supplies were on their way to the damage zones, the military said.
The 6.5-magnitude quake hit at 11:21 a.m. Thursday, damaging hundreds of homes and buildings along a wide stretch of eastern Sulawesi and the offshore islands of Peleng and Banggai. Eighty percent of the buildings on Banggai were damaged, said Sevatius Suyitno, chief of the Geophysics Agency in Luwuk.
Suyitno said a fire started in a shopping center as well.
"All the people poured into the streets in panic," Suyitno said. "We are still monitoring the situation because of indications that the quake caused a crack on the seabed around the port."
The area around Banggai, about 1,100 miles northeast of Jakarta, was hit by a 6.0-magnitude earthquake in August. Dozens of buildings were damaged or destroyed in that quake, but no lives were lost.
A 6.0-magnitude quake can cause severe damage if centered in a heavily populated area.
Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago nation, is prone to seismic upheaval because of its location on the so-called Pacific ``Ring of Fire'' -- a line of volcanically active areas stretching from the western coast of the Americas across to Japan, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.
The quake's epicenter was in the Peleng Straits dividing Sulawesi and Peleng.