BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan — A day after severe weather apparently forced a CH-47 Chinook to crash — resulting in the deadliest day for American forces in Afghanistan — wind and dust continued to batter key bases in the country.

Flags were lowered to half staff at Bagram to honor the 16 people who died Wednesday afternoon when their helicopter was forced down while it was returning to Bagram. The military issued a release Thursday stating that 13 of the victims were active-duty personnel. Three were civilian contractors working for the government. Two more active-duty soldiers had been listed on the flight manifest.

“Those two individuals are still unaccounted for,” said Navy Lt. Cindy Moore, a coalition spokeswoman in Kabul.

Soldiers stationed with the provincial reconstruction team in Ghazni, near where the crash occurred, have been providing security at the site. A mortuary affairs team from Bagram was scheduled to visit the accident scene Thursday, but had to turn back because of the weather. That team would take control of the victims’ remains if it is able to reach the site.

The military has launched an investigation into the crash. It reported Wednesday night that it believed a severe change in weather — and not a hostile action — brought the helicopter down.

The identities of the crew, which usually consists of five people, and the passengers were still not available Thursday evening local time. Military officials were still trying to contact next of kin.

The mountains surrounding Bagram were not visible for a good part of the day Thursday, thanks to heavy winds — measured at 47 knots — that blew up a thick cloud of dust. Flights were delayed or canceled throughout the day.

The visibility was reportedly worse in Kandahar, with winds of 20 knots stirring up dust that made flying in and out nearly impossible for the second straight day.

“The visibility in both places is very reduced,” Moore said.

She said she could not discuss whether flights in and out of either location were affected by the weather, citing a policy against discussing ongoing operations.

But a concert by country singer Charlie Daniels scheduled for Thursday night at Bagram was canceled when the plane carrying the entertainer was turned away because of the weather. And the normal sounds of aircraft taking off from the base were minimal for most of the day.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for 40 years.

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