SHANGHAI, China (AP) _ Authorities in central China have sentenced 23 people to prison terms of up to 13 years for a Christmas fire in a disco that killed 309 people, a court official said Thursday.

The Intermediate People's Court in Luoyang, a city in Henan province, ended its trials last week but didn't release rulings until judges had consulted with government leaders. Nine of the defendants were tried in another Luoyang court.

The longest sentence went to Wang Chengtai, a welder whose torch was found to have ignited the blaze in the basement of the Dongdu Commercial Building, a shopping mall in Luoyang, said a court official who gave only his surname, Zhao.

The fire quickly spread through furniture in the basement. Wang and other workers escaped, but smoke suffocated revelers at a Christmas party on the mall's fourth-floor disco.

Two managers of the Dongdu Commercial Building, Wang Ziliang and Wang Lei, were sentenced to nine years in prison, Zhao said.

An investigation immediately after the accident blamed locked emergency exits for the large number of deaths.

Nine fire and safety officials from Luoyang received prison terms of seven years for negligence of duty. The others convicted were mall employees, Zhao said.