The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria on Monday has led to a “catastrophic situation” in Syria, an official of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) told CNN.
“What we are seeing inside Syria really is a catastrophic situation,” said Mark Kaye, IRC's policy, advocacy and communications director for Middle East and North Africa.
The earthquake has made the situation worse for the already vulnerable and displaced populations in Syria, specifically the rural areas, Kaye said.
“For this area, you have to remember: This population [was] already highly vulnerable. They have a huge amount of people who have already been displaced — sometimes as many as 20 times ... Almost the majority of them are women and children, particularly vulnerable to the harsh weather and this earthquake,” Kaye said.
Displaced people living in makeshift camps are facing freezing winds and the camps are not equipped to withstand an earthquake of this intensity, he added.
“So today you will be seeing a lot of people being pulled out from the rubble. I think what we are really concerned about as well is those who have survived ... whether the health system is going to be able to really come to grip with that and not be completely overburdened,” Kaye told CNN.
Power cuts and a lack of communication across northern Syria have made search operations difficult, particularly in rural areas where the infrastructure is not built to withstand such a powerful earthquake, he explained.
He commended countries’ offers to send help to Turkey but said those commitments should translate to Syria as well, expressing concern that the "search and rescue operation really isn’t fit" for addressing the large numbers of people that may be affected.