August 27 marks the anniversary of one of the most violent volcanic events of modern times

In the summer of 1883 the Indonesian island of Krakatoa exploded in a cataclysmic volcanic eruption and collapsed into the sea.

A series of eruptions beginning in May culminated in the massive event which collapsed two thirds of the island and caused a huge and deadly tsunami.

An estimated 36,000 people died as a result of the eruption, mostly due to the tsunami.

Ash spewed up to 11 km into the atmosphere and was reported to have fallen almost 2000 km away. The explosion, which was loud enough to be heard in Australia, belched out pieces of volcanic rock up to 40 km.

Remembering the incident insurance broker Aon said a similar eruption today would have even more expensive consequences, both in terms of lost life and property.

“An estimated 36,000 people died as a result of the eruption.

Some of the towns hit by the largest waves in August 1883 are now home to major industrial centres in Java, said the broker. And similarly gigantic ash columns could ground airline fleets and fall to earth destroying property.

Continuing growth in urban populations increases the risk. An eruption at Mt. Rainier in Washington could threaten the highly populated areas of Seattle.

Little can be done about lava flows, falling ash and tsunamis following a volcanic eruption. Aon said: ‘Monitoring and early warning systems remain the most effective method of saving lives.’

Over 500m people around the world are at risk from volcanoes.