Honduran police have located and seized nearly half a ton of fentanyl hidden in a shipping container, officials announced Wednesday. This is the first known seizure of the highly lethal synthetic opioid in the Central American state.

Security Minister Gustavo Sánchez explained that the record amount of 493 kg of fentanyl was detected on a ship that had departed from Britain, after arriving at the port of Cortes, an intermediate stop, followed by San Pedro Sula, the heart of Honduran industry, on the coast of the country in the Atlantic.

The amount of the drug was “enough to flood all of Central America,” Mr. Sanchez said via X (formerly Twitter).

Police are investigating whether the fentanyl’s final destination was Honduras or whether it was destined for another country, officials said.

For decades, Honduras has been characterized as a transit country for cocaine trafficked from South American countries (Colombia, Peru, Bolivia), primarily to the US market. However, little was known about the country’s role in fentanyl smuggling.

The country’s former president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, is in pre-trial detention in the US awaiting trial on drug-trafficking charges after his extradition last year. American prosecutors emphasize that his case documents his government’s involvement in drug trafficking, accusing him of turning Honduras into a “narco-state”.

The amount of fentanyl seized yesterday was divided into packets inside cardboard boxes, according to a photo released by the authorities. Police officers are pictured wearing full-body special uniforms for handling the highly dangerous substance.

Fentanyl is rated 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The US government says the country remains in the grip of an opioid “epidemic”. The CDC recorded nearly 107,000 drug overdose deaths in 2021, 75% of which were attributed to opioids.