Professor Pavel Albores, of Aston University, said the next 72 hours would be crucial to the rescue effort.
He warned that even when the rescue effort was over, the task of providing food and shelter for those displaced by the earthquake would be immense.
"It's going to be quite a difficult job they have on their hands," he said. "There are so many people to try to help, and they will be working in extra-hard conditions."
While experts from around the world have been heading to the disaster zone, Prof Albores said the sheer number of people likely to be trapped meant it would be difficult to help everyone.
"The next 72 hours will be critical," he said. "There will be a lot of people trapped in the rubble, who will have no access to food or water, and it will be particularly difficult for them because of the cold.
"The biggest problem will be the lack of water, people can do without food for a little longer."
Prof Albores said he expected the rescue effort to continue for the about five to seven days, although it was still possible that some people would be able to survive for longer than that.
He said the location of the affected areas would also present difficulties in terms of logistics.
"The areas affected are a long way from the main population centres of Istanbul and Ankara, and getting people, materials and relief goods out there is going to be quite a challenge in terms of logistics," he added.
Prof Albores said the areas affected were also ill prepared, with few buildings designed with earthquake safety in mind.
"The Turkish government has invested a lot over the last few years in response to the earthquake in 1999, but that was mostly in Istanbul and Ankara, it didn't really reach this area," he said.
And Prof Albores said the situation would be even more difficult in Syria due to the civil war.
"There will be no infrastructure, and the government is not there to provide support, and because of the conflict it is difficult for international organisations to provide support," he said.
"The United Nations is trying to broker a deal for aid to go through, but the situation is still ongoing."
Prof Albores said the earthquake would prove to be one of the biggest disasters of the past decade, comparable to the earthquakes which hit Haiti and Japan
"There are going to be so many challenges, at the moment the focus is on rescuing people who are trapped in the rubble, but there will also be the problem of providing food, water and shelter to all the people who have been displaced, and then finding somewhere for them to relocate to, and then the rebuilding work.
"It's going to be a long-term challenge, one that will take months or even years."