Jakarta - A powerful earthquake which struck near the Talaud Islands north of Indonesia's Sulawesi island has damaged many buildings in the area, the meteorology agency said on Thursday.

The quake, at a shallow depth of about 10 km (6.2 miles), was felt strongly in the Talaud Islands, and followed by several aftershocks. A tsunami warning issued by the agency was later lifted.

Oktifar Tribandono, an official at the agency, said many houses in the area collapsed, and two churches were damaged, but so far there have been no reports of casualties. The area lies in an agricultural belt and is sparsely populated.

The U.S. Geographical Survey initially put the quake at a magnitude of 7.5 magnitude, although later lowered its estimate to 7.0.

A reporter for Indonesia's state radio station in the town of Tahuna said frightened people had rushed out of their homes after the strong quake on the islands bordering the Celebes Sea.

The U.S. agency said the epicenter of the quake was in the Talaud Islands, 323.5 km (201 miles) south-southeast of General Santos, on the Philippine island of Mindanao. It put the quake at a depth of 33 km (20 miles).

The Indonesian archipelago suffers frequent earthquakes, lying in an area of intense seismic activity where several tectonic plates collide.

A huge Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 killed about 230,000 people across Asia, many of them in Indonesia.

Afflicted areas are still struggling to recover and Indonesia's government has taken measures to improve readiness for such disasters.