The 1978 Tabas earthquake measured 7.8 on the Richter scale which struck on September 16 in central Iran. The death toll was approximately 15,000 and the worst damage was to the town Tabas, which was at the epicentre of the quake and completely flattened. 40 villages within a 30 miles (48 km) radius were damaged. All the town's doctors were reported to have died, leaving civilians to treat others. All water and electricity was cut from Tabas, along with phone lines. The nearest accessible place to gain water was the town of Ferdows, a three-hour drive away.
The earthquake lasted around three minutes, compared to the normal earthquake duration of 10 – 20 seconds. It struck at 19:38 local time. In the aftermath of the quake, bodies were burned where found to prevent the spread of disease.