Colombian authorities have confiscated more than eight tonnes of cocaine near the border with Panama in what has been billed as the largest-ever drug seizure in history. The massive haul, estimated to be worth about $240m (£167m), was kept hidden in a banana plantation in the coastal town of Turbo.

The drugs were kept in an underground hideaway. Three people were arrested during the bust, while three other suspects fled the scene before police attempted to detain them. President Juan Manuel Santos hailed the operation and congratulated the police officers involved in the operation.

"The biggest seizure of drugs in history. A hit against criminals," the Colombian president wrote on Twitter. The military has also released photographs of the seizure showing individual packages. The police said up to 1.5 tonnes of cocaine were neatly packed and ready to be shipped via the Caribbean Sea to Central America and then likely to the US.

According to the local law enforcement agencies, the cocaine stash was owned by the criminal drug gang, Clan Usuga. The notorious group, comprising about 2,000 members, also referred to as Los Urabenos, is known to not only peddle drugs but is also involved in other illegal activities such as extortion and kidnappings. The US had announced a bounty of $5m for anyone providing information about the leader of the cartel.

This cartel is seen as the most powerful in the southern American nation. The latest bust will be come as a key victory for the government as the strife-torn country is struggling to control the illegal drug trade with the UN estimating that Colombia generates up to 442 tonnes of cocaine annually.